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G.    BELL    AND    SONS,    LTD. 

BOMBAY  :      A.     H.     WHEELER     AND     CO. 











m  2  ^  ^99V, 

First  published,  April  1894 
Reprinted  in  Bohn's  Standard  Library, 
1896,  1911,  1916 

?6  6»  2^3 


•  PAGE 

The  Captain's  Daughter i 

DouBROvsKY 153 

The  Queen  of  Spades 257 

u'^An  Amateur  Peasant  Girl 297 

The  Shot 325 

The  Snowstorm     .  ^. 345 

The  Post  Master  ..- 363 

The  Coffin-maker 381 

Kirdjali 393 

The  Egyptian  Nights 403 

Peter  the  Great's  Negro 419 





THE    SERGEANT    OF  THE    GUARDS.  ,     .     v   . 

■>      t     m''    *     ■> 
-    '  •*     1      '    •  • 

MY  father,  Andrei  Petrovitch  Grineff,  after  having 
served  in  his  youth  under  Count  Miinich/  quitted 
the  service,  in  the  year  17 — ,  with  the  rank  of  senior  major. 
He  settled  down  upon  his  estate  in  the  district  of  Simbirsk, 

where  he  married  Avdotia  Vassilevna  U ,  the  daughter 

of  a  poor  nobleman  of  the  neighbourhood.  Nine  children 
were  the  result  of  this  marriage.  All  my  brothers  and 
sisters  died  in  their  infancy.  I  was  enrolled  as  a  sergeant 
in   the   Semenovsky  Regiment,  through   the   influence  of 

Prince  B ,  a  major  in  the  Guards,  and  a  near  relation 

of  our  family.  I  was  considered  as  being  on  leave  of 
absence  until  the  completion  of  my  course  of  studies.  In 
those  days  our  system  of  education  was  very  different  from 
that  in  vogue  at  the  present  time.  At  five  years  of  age  I 
was  given  into  the  hands  of  our  gamekeeper,  Savelitch, 
whose  sober  conduct  had  rendered  him  worthy  of  being 
selected  to  take  charge  of  me.  Under  his  instruction,  at 
the  age  of  twelve  I  could  read  and  write  Russian,  and  I  was 
by  no  means  a  bad  judge  of  the  qualities  of  a  greyhound. 
About  that  time  my  father  engaged  a  Frenchman,  a  Monsieur 

'  A  celebrated  German  general  who  entered  the  service  of  Russia 
during  the  reign  of  Peter  the  Great. 



Beauprd,  who  had  been  imported  from  Moscow,  together 
with  the  yearly  stock  of  wine  and  Provence  oil.  Savelitch 
was  not  by  any  means  pleased  at  his  arrival. 

"  Heaven  be  thanked  ! "  he  muttered  to  himself;  **  the 
child  is  washed,  combed,  and  well-fed.  What  need  is  there 
for  spending  money  and  engaging  a  Mossoo,  as  if  there 
were  not  enough  of  our  own  people  ! " 

Beaupr^  had  been  a  hairdresser  in  his  own  country,  then 
a  .soldier  in  Prussia,  then  he  had  come  to  Russia  pour  etre 
ouichitel^  without  very  well  understanding  the  meaning  of 
the  .wor^.  He  was  a  good  sort  of  fellow,  but  extremely 
ffighty  and  thoughtless.  His  chief  weakness  was  a  passion 
for  the  fair  sex ;  but  his  tenderness  not  unfrequently  met 
with  rebuffs,  which  would  cause  him  to  sigh  and  lament  for 
the  whole  twenty-four  hours.  Moreover,  to  use  his  own 
expression,  he  was  no  enemy  of  the  bottle,  or,  in  other 
words,  he  loved  to  drink  more  than  was  good  for  him.  But 
as,  with  us,  wine  was  only  served  out  at  dinner,  and  then  in 
small  glasses  only,  and  as,  moreover,  the  teacher  was  gene- 
rally passed  over  on  these  occasions,  my  Beaupr^  very  soon 
became  accustomed  to  Russian  drinks,  and  even  began  to 
prefer  them  to  the  wines  of  his  own  country,  as  being  more 
beneficial  for  the  stomach.  We  soon  became  very  good 
friends,  and  although,  by  the  terms  of  the  contract,  he  was 
engaged  to  teach  me  French,  German,  and  all  the  sciences, 
yet  he  much  preferred  learning  from  me  to  chatter  in 
Russian,  and  then  each  of  us  occupied  himself  with  what 
seemed  best  to  him.  Our  friendship  was  of  the  most  inti- 
mate character,  and  I  wished  for  no  other  mentor.  But 
fate  soon  separated  us,  owing  to  an  event  which  I  will  now 
proceed  to  relate. 

The  laundress,  Palashka,  a  thick-set  woman  with  a  face 

^  Outchitel.     A  tutor. 

THE  captain's  DAUGHTER.  5 

scarred  by  the  small-pox,  and  the  one-eyed  cowkeeper, 
Akoulka,  made  up  their  minds  together  one  day  and  went 
and  threw  themselves  at  my  mother's  feet,  accusing  them- 
selves of  certain  guilty  weaknesses,  complaining,  with  a  flood 
of  tears,  that  the  Mossoo  had  taken  advantage  of  their  inex- 
perience, and  had  effected  their  ruin.  My  mother  did  not 
look  upon  such  matters  in  the  light  of  a  joke,  so  she  con- 
sulted my  father  upon  the  subject.  •  An  inquiry  into  the 
matter  was  promptly  resolved  upon.  He  immediately  sent 
for  the  rascally  Frenchman.  He  was  informed  that  Monsieur 
was  engaged  in  giving  me  my  lesson.  My  father  came  to 
my  room.  At  that  particular  moment  Beaupr^  was  lying  on 
the  bed,  sleeping  the  sleep  of  innocence.  I  was  occupied 
in  a  very  different  manner.  I  ought  to  mention  that  a  map 
had  been  obtained  from  Moscow,  in  order  that  I  might  be 
instructed  in  geography.  It  hung  upon  the  wall  without  ever 
being  made  use  of,  and  as  it  was  a  very  large  map,  and  the 
paper  thick  and  of  good  quality,  I  had  long  been  tempted  to 
appropriate  it  to  my  own  use.  I  resolved  to  make  it  into  a 
kite,  and,  taking  advantage  of  Beaupre's  slumber,  I  set  to 
work.  My  father  entered  the  room  just  at  the  moment  when 
I  was  adjusting  a  tail  to  the  Cape  of  Good  Hope.  Seeing 
me  so  occupied  with  geography,  my  father  saluted  me  with 
a  box  on  the  ear,  then  stepped  towards  Beaupr^,  and  waking 
him  very  unceremoniously,  overwhelmed  him  with  re- 
proaches. In  his  confusion,  Beaupr^  wanted  to  rise  up 
from  the  bed,  but  he  was  unable  to  do  so :  the  unfortunate 
Frenchman  was  hopelessly  intoxicated.  There  was  only  one 
course  to  take  after  so  many  acts  of  misdemeanour.  My 
father  seized  hold  of  him  by  the  collar,  lifted  him  off  the  bed, 
hustled  him  out  of  the  room,  and  dismissed  him  that  very 
same  day  from  his  service — to  the  unspeakable  delight  of 
Savelitch.     Thus  ended  my  education. 

I  now  lived  the  life  of  a  spoiled  child,  frightening  the 

6  ,        poushkin's  prose  tales. 

pigeons,  and  playing  at  leap-frog  with  the  boys  on  the 
estate.  I  continued  to  lead  this  kind  of  life  until  I  was 
sixteen  years  of  age.  Then  came  the  turning-point  in  my 

One  day  in  autumn,  my  mother  was  boiling  some  honey 
preserves  in  the  parlour,  and  I  was  looking  on  and  licking 
my  lips  as  the  liquid  simmered  and  frothed.  My  father 
was  sitting  near  the  window,  reading  the  "  Court  Calendar," 
which  he  received  every  year.  This  book  always  had  a 
great  effect  upon  him ;  he  used  to  read  it  with  especial 
interest,  and  the  reading  of  it  always  stirred  his  bile  in  the 
most  astonishing  manner.  My  mother,  who  was  perfectly 
well  acquainted  with  his  whims  and  peculiarities,  always 
endeavoured  to  keep  this  unfortunate  book  out  of  the  way 
as  much  as  she  possibly  could,  and,  on  this  account,  his 
eyes  would  not  catch  a  glimpse  of  the  volume  for  months 
together.  But  when  he  did  happen  to  find  it,  he  would  sit 
with  it  in  his  hands  for  hours  at  a  stretch.  ...  As  I  have 
said,  my  father  was  reading  the  "  Court  Calendar,"  every 
now  and  then  shrugging  his  shoulders,  and  muttering  to 
himself:  "Lieutenant-General!  .  .  .  He  used  to  be  a  sergeant 
in  my  company  !  .  .  .  Knight  of  both  Russian  Orders !  .  .  . 

How  long  is  it  since  we " 

At  last  my  father  flung  the  "Calendar"  down  upon  the 
sofa,  and  sank  into  a  reverie — a  proceeding  that  was  always 
of  evil  augury. 

Suddenly  he  turned  to  my  mother : 
*'Avdotia  Vassilevna,^  how  old  is  Petrousha?"^ 
"  He  is   getting  on  for  seventeen,"  replied  my  mother. 
"  Petrousha  was  born  in  the  same  year  that  aunt  Nastasia 

Gerasimovna  ^  lost  her  eye,  and " 

"Very  well,"  said  my  father,  interrupting  her;  "it  is  time 

'  Avdotia,  daughter  of  Basil.  ^  Diminutive  of  Peter. 

^  Anastasia,  daughter  of  Gerasim. 

THE  captain's   DAUGHTER.  7 

that  he  entered  the  service.  He  has  had  quite  enough  of 
running  about  the  servants'  rooms  and  climbing  up  to  the 

The  thought  of  soon  having  to  part  with  me  produced 
such  an  effect  upon  my  mother,  that  she  let  the  spoon  fall 
into  the  saucepan,  and  the  tears  streamed  down  her  cheeks. 
As  for  myself,  it  would  be  difficult  to  describe  the  delight 
that  I  felt.  The  thought  of  the  service  was  associated  in 
my  mind  with  thoughts  of  freedom  and  the  pleasures  of  a 
life  in  St.  Petersburg.  I  imagined  myself  an  officer  in  the 
Guards,  that  being,  in  my  opinion,  the  summit  of  human 

My  father  loved  neither  to  change  his  intentions,  nor  to 
delay  putting  them  into  execution.  The  day  for  my  de- 
parture was  fixed.  On  the  evening  before,  my  father  in- 
formed me  that  he  intended  to  write  to  my  future  chief,  and 
asked  for  pens  and  paper. 

"Do  not  forget,  Andrei  Petrovitch," ^  said   my  mother, 

"  to  send  my  salutations  to  Prince  B ,  and  say  that  I 

hope  he  will  take  our  Petrousha  under  his  protection.'' 

"What  nonsense!"  exclaimed  my  father,  frowning. 
"Why  should  I  write  to  Prince  B ?" 

"Why,  you  said  just  now  that  you  wanted  to  write  to 
Petrousha's  chief." 

"  Well,  and  what  then?" 

"Why,  Prince  B is  Petrousha's  chief.     You  know 

Petrousha  is  enrolled  in  the  Semenovsky  Regiment." 

"  Enrolled  !  What  care  I  whether  he  is  enrolled  or  not  ? 
Petrousha  is  not  going  to  St.  Petersburg.  What  would  he 
learn  by  serving  in  St.  Petersburg  ?  To  squander  money 
and  indulge  in  habits  of  dissipation.     No,  let  him  enter  a 

^  The  Russians  usually  address  each  other  by  their  Christian  name 
and  that  of  their  father.  Thus  Andrei  Petrovitch  means  simply  Andrew, 
son  of  Peter. 


regiment  of  the  Line ;  let  him  learn  to  carry  knapsack  and 
belt,  to  smell  powder,  to  become  a  soldier,  and  not  an  idler 
in  the  Guards.     Where  is  his  passport  ?     Bring  it  here." 

My  mother  went  to  get  my  passport,  which  she  preserved 
in  a  small  box  along  with  the  shirt  in  which  I  was  christened, 
and  delivered  it  to  my  father  with  a  trembHng  hand.  My 
father  read  it  through  very  attentively,  placed  it  in  front  of 
him  upon  the  table,  and  commenced  to  write  his  letter. 

I  was  tortured  with  curiosity.  Where  was  I  to  be  sent  to, 
if  I  was  not  going  to  St.  Petersburg?  I  kept  my  eyes 
steadfastly  fixed  upon  the  pen,  which  moved  slowly  over 
the  paper.  At  last  he  finished  the  letter,  enclosed  it  in  a 
cover  along  with  my  passport,  took  off"  his  spectacles,  and, 
calling  me  to  him,  said : 

"  Here  is  a  letter  for  Andrei  Karlovitch  R ,  my  old 

comrade  and  friend.  You  are  going  to  Orenburg  to  serve 
under  his  command." 

All  my  brilliant  hopes  were  thus  brought  to  the  ground ! 
Instead  of  a  life  of  gaiety  in  St.  Petersburg,  there  awaited 
me  a  tedious  existence  in  a  dreary  and  distant  country. 
The  service,  which  I  had  thought  of  with  such  rapture  but 
a  moment  before,  now  presented  itself  to  my  eyes  in  the 
light  of  a  great  misfortune.  But  there  was  no  help  for  it, 
and  arguing  the  matter  would  have  been  of  no  avail. 

Early  the  next  morning  a  travelling  carriage  drew  up 
before  the  door ;  my  portmanteau  was  placed  in  it,  as  well 
as  a  small  chest  containing  a  tea-service  and  a  tied-up  cloth 
full  of  rolls  and  pies — the  last  tokens  of  home  indulgence. 
My  parents  gave  me  their  blessing.  My  father  said  to 
me : 

"  Good-bye,  Peter !  Serve  faithfully  whom  you  have 
sworn  to  serve;  obey  your  superior  officers;  do  not  run 
after  their  favours ;  be  not  too  eager  in  volunteering  for 
service,  but  never  shirk  a  duty  when  you  are  selected  for 


it ;  and  remember  the  proverb :  *  Take  care  of  your  coat 
while  it  is  new,  and  of  your  honour  while  it  is  young.' " 

My  mother,  with  tears  in  her  eyes,  enjoined  me  to  take 
care  of  my  health,  at  the  same  time  impressing  upon 
Savelitch  to  look  well  after  the  child.  A  cloak  made  of 
hare-skin  was  then  put  over  my  shoulders,  and  over  that 
another  made  of  fox-skin.  I  seated  myself  in  the  carriage 
with  Savelitch,  and  started  off  on  my  journey,  weeping 

That  same  night  I  arrived  at  Simbirsk,  where  I  was 
compelled  to  remain  for  the  space  of  twenty-four  hours,  to 
enable  Savelitch  to  purchase  several  necessary  articles  which 
he  had  been  commissioned  to  procure.  I  stopped  at  an  inn. 
In  the  morning  Savelitch  sallied  out  to  the  shops.  Tired 
of  looking  out  of  the  window  into  a  dirty  alley,  I  began  to 
wander  about  the  rooms  of  the  inn.  As  I  entered  the 
billiard-room,  my  eyes  caught  sight  of  a  tall  gentleman  of 
about  thirty-five  years  of  age,  with  long,  black  moustaches ; 
he  was  dressed  in  a  morning-gown,  and  had  a  cue  in  his 
hand  and  a  pipe  between  liis  teeth.  He  was  playing  with 
the  marker,  who  drank  a  glass  of  brandy  when  he  scored,  but 
crept  on  all-fours  beneath  the  table  when  he  failed.  I 
stopped  to  look  at  the  game.  The  longer  it  continued, 
the  more  frequent  became  the  crawling  on  all-fours,  until 
at  last  the  marker  crept  beneath  the  table  and  remained 

The  gentleman  uttered  a  few  strong  expressions  over  him, 
as  a  sort  of  funeral  oration,  and  then  invited  me  to  play  a 
game  with  him.  I  declined,  on  the  score  that  I  did  not 
know  how  to  play.  This  evidently  seemed  very  strange  to 
him,  and  he  looked  at  me  with  an  air  of  commiseration. 
However,  we  soon  fell  into  conversation.  I  learned  that 
his  name  was  Ivan  Ivanovitch  Zourin  ;  that  he  was  a  captain 
in  a  Hussar  regiment ;  that  he  was  then  stopping  in  Simbirsk, 

10  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

waiting  to  receive  some  recruits,  and  that  he  was  staying  at 
the  same  inn  as  myself. 

Zourin  invited  me  to  dine  with  him,  in  military  fashion, 
upon  whatever  Heaven  should  be  pleased  to  set  before  us. 
I  accepted  his  invitation  with  pleasure.  We  sat  down  to 
table.  Zourin  drank  a  great  deal,  and  pressed  me  to  do  the 
same,  saying  that  it  was  necessary  for  me  to  get  accustomed 
to  the  ways  of  the  service.  He  related  to  me  several 
military  anecdotes,  which  convulsed  me  with  laughter,  and 
when  we  rose  from  the  table  we  had  become  intimate  friends 
Then  he  offered  to  teach  me  how  to  play  at  billiards. 

"  It  is  an  indispensable  game  for  soldiers  Hke  us,"  said 
he.  ''When  on  the  march,  for  instance,  you  arrive  at  some 
insignificant  village,  what  can  you  do  to  occupy  the  time? 
You  cannot  always  be  thrashing  the  Jews.  You  involuntarily 
make  your  way  to  the  inn  to  play  at  billiards,  and  to  do 
that,  you  must  know  how  to  play." 

I  was  completely  convinced,  and  I  commenced  to  learn 
the  game  with  great  assiduity.  Zourin  encouraged  me  with 
loud-voiced  praise,  being  astonfehed  at  my  rapid  progress ; 
and  after  a  few  lessons  he  proposed  that  we  should  play  for 
money,  for  the  smallest  sums  possible,  not  for  the  sake  of 
gain,  but  merely  for  the  sake  of  not  playing  for  nothing,  which, 
according  to  his  opinion,  was  an  exceedingly  bad  habit. 

I  agreed  to  his  proposal,  and  Zourin  ordered  a  supply  of 
punch,  which  he  persuaded  me  to  partake  of,  saying  that  it 
was  necessary  to  become  accustomed  to  it  in  the  service ; 
for  what  would  the  service  be  without  punch  !  I  followed 
his  advice.  In  the  meantime  we  continued  our  game. 
The  more  frequently  I  had  recourse  to  the  punch,  the  more 
emboldened  I  became.  The  balls  kept  continually  flying  in 
the  wrong  direction  ;  I  grew  angry,  abused  the  marker — who 
counted  the  points,  Heaven  only  knows  how, — increased  the 
stakes  from  time  to  time — in  a  word,  I  behaved  like  a  boy  just 


out  of  leading-strings.  In  the  meanwhile  the  time  had  passed 
away  without  my  having  observed  it.  Zourin  glanced  at  the 
clock,  laid  down  his  cue,  and  informed  me  that  I  had  lost 
a  hundred  roubles.^  I  was  considerably  confounded  by 
this  piece  of  information.  My  money  was  in  the  hands  of 
Savelitch.  I  began  to  make  some  excuses.  Zourin  inter- 
rupted me : 

"  Pray,  do  not  be  uneasy.  I  can  wait ;  and  now  let  us  go 
to  Arinoushka."^ 

•  What  more  shall  I  add  ?  I  finished  the  day  as  foolishly 
as  I  had  commenced  it.  We  took  supper  with  Arinoushka. 
Zourin  kept  continually  filling  my  glass,  observing  as  he  did 
so,  that  it  was  necessary  to  become  accustomed  to  it  in  the 
service.  When  I  rose  from  the  table,  I  was  scarcely  able  to 
stand  on  my  legs ;  at  midnight,  Zourin  conducted  me  back 
to  the  inn. 

Savelitch  came  to  the  doorstep  to  meet  us.  He  uttered  a 
groan  on  perceiving  the  indubitable  signs  of  my  zeal  for  the 

"What  has  happened  to  you?"  he  said,  in  a  voice  of 
lamentation.  "  Where  have  you  been  drinking  so  ?  Oh, 
Lord  !  never  did  such  a  misfortune  happen  before  ! " 

"  Hold  your  tongue,  you  old  greybeard  ! "  I  replied,  in  an 
unsteady  voice  ;  "  you  are  certainly  drunk.  Go  to  sleep  .  . . 
and  put  me  to  bed." 

The  next  morning  I  awoke  with  a  violent  headache,  and 
with  a  confused  recollection  of  the  events  of  the  day  before. 
My  reflections  were  interrupted  by  Savelitch,  who  brought 
me  a  cup  of  tea. 

"  You  are  beginning  your  games  early,  Peter  Andreitch,"  ^ 
he  said,  shaking  his  head.     "And  whom  do  you  take  after? 

^  The  rouble,  at  that  time,  was  worth  about  three  shillings  and  four- 

^  Diminutive  of  Arina.  *  Peter,  son  of  Andrew. 


As  far  as  I  know,  neither  your  father  nor  grandfather  were 
ever  drunkards  ;  as  for  your  mother,  I  will  say  nothing ;  she 
has  never  drunk  anything  except  kvas  ^  since  the  day  she  was 
born.  And  who  is  to  blame  for  all  this?  Why,  that  cursed 
Mossoo,  who  was  ever  running  to  Antipevna  with  :  *  Madame^ 
je  vous  prie^  vodka.'  ^  You  see  what  a  pretty  pass  your  Je 
vous  prie  has  brought  you  to  !  There's  no  denying  that  the 
son  of  a  dog  taught  you  some  nice  things  !  It  was  worth 
while  to  hire  such  a  heathen  for  your  tutor,  as  if  our  master 
had  not  enough  of  his  own  people  ! " 

I  felt  ashamed  of  myself.  I  turned  my  back  to  him,  and 
said : 

"Go  away,  Savelitch ;  I  do  not  want  any  tea." 

But  it  was  a  difficult  matter  to  quiet  Savelitch  when  he 
had  set  his  mind  upon  preaching  a  sermon. 

"You  see  now,  Peter  Andreitch,  what  it  is  to  get  drunk. 
You  have  a  headache,  and  you  do  not  want  to  eat  or  drink 
anything.  A  man  who  gets  drunk  is  good  for  nothing. 
Have  some  cucumber  pickle  with  honey ;  or  perhaps  half  a 
glass  of  fruit  wine  would  be  better  still.     What  do  you  say  ?  " 

At  that  moment  a  boy  entered  the  room  and  handed  me 
a  note  from  Zourin.  I  opened  it  and  read  the  following 
lines : 

"Dear  Peter  Andreivitch, 

"Be  so  good  as  to  send  me,  by  my  boy,  the 
hundred  roubles  which  you  lost  to  me  yesterday.  I  am  in 
great  need  of  money. 

"  Yours  faithfully, 

"  Ivan  Zourin." 

There  was   no  help   for   it.     I  assumed  an   air  of  in- 

^  A  sour  but  refreshing  drink  made  from  rye-meal  and  malt. 
*  Brandy. 


difference,  and  turning  to  Savelitch,  who  was  my  treasurer 
and  caretaker  in  one,  I  ordered  him  to  give  the  boy  a 
hundred  roubles. 

"  What  ?  why  ?  "  asked  the  astonished  SaveUtch. 

"  I  owe  them  to  him,"  I  repHed,  with  the  greatest  possible 

"Owe!"  ejaculated  Savelitch,  becoming  more  and  more 
astonished.  "  When  did  you  get  into  his  debt  ?  It  looks  a 
very  suspicious  piece  of  business.  You  may  do  as  you  like, 
my  lord,  but  I  shall  not  give  the  money." 

I  thought  that,  if  in  this  decisive  moment  I  did  not  gain 
the  upper  hand  of  the  obstinate  old  man,  it  would  be  difficult 
for  me  to  liberate  myself  from  his  tutelage  later  on  ;  so,  look- 
ing haughtily  at  him,  I  said  : 

"  I  am  your  master,  and  you  are  my  servant.  The  money 
is  m.ine.  I  played  and  lost  it  because  I  chose  to  do  so ; 
and  I  advise  you  not  to  oppose  my  wishes,  but  to  do  what 
you  are  ordered." 

Savelitch  was  so  astounded  at  my  words,  that  he  clasped 
his  hands  and  stood  as  if  petrified. 

*'  What  are  you  standing  there  like  that  for  ?  "  I  exclaimed 

Savelitch  began  to  weep. 

"  Father,  Peter  Andreitch,"  he  stammered  in  a  quivering 
voice ,  '*  do  not  break  my  heart  with  grief  You  are  the 
light  of  my  life,  so  Hsten  to  me— to  an  old  man:  write  to 
this  robber,  and  tell  him  that  you  were  only  joking,  that  we 
have  not  got  so  much  money.  A  hundred  roubles  !  Merci- 
ful Heaven  !  Tell  him  that  your  parents  have  strictly  for- 
bidden you  to  play  for  anything  except  nuts " 

"  That  will  do ;  let  me  have  no  more  of  your  chatter  ! 
Give  me  the  money,  or  I  will  put  you  out  by  the  neck  ! " 

Savelitch  looked  at  me  with  deep  sadness,  and  went  for 
the  money.     I  pitied  the  poor  old  man ;  but  I  wanted  to 


assert  my  independence  and  to  show  that  I  was  no  longer  a 

The  money  was  paid  to  Zourin.  SaveHtch  hastened  to 
get  me  away  from  the  accursed  inn.  He  made  his  ap- 
pearance with  the  information  that  the  horses  were  ready. 
With  an  uneasy  conscience,  and  a  silent  feeling  of  remorse,  I 
left  Simbirsk  without  taking  leave  of  my  teacher  of  billiards, 
and  without  thinking  that  I  should  ever  see  him  again. 




MY  reflections  during  the  journey  were  not  very  agree- 
able. My  loss,  according  to  the  value  of  money  at 
that  time,  was  of  no  little  importance.  I  could  not  but 
confess,  within  my  own  mind,  that  my  behaviour  at  the 
Simbirsk  inn  was  very  stupid,  and  I  felt  guilty  in  the  pre- 
sence of  Savelitch.  All  this  tormented  me.  The  old  man 
sat  in  gloomy  silence  upon  the  seat  of  the  vehicle,  with  his 
face  averted  from  me,  and  every  now  and  then  giving  vent 
to  a  sigh.  I  wanted  at  all  hazards  to  become  reconciled  to 
him,  but  I  did  not  know  how  to  begin.  At  last  I  said  to 
him  : 

"  Come,  come,  Savelitch,  that  will  do,  let  us  be  friends. 
I  was  to  blame ;  I  see  myself  that  I  was  in  the  wrong.  I 
acted  very  foolishly  yesterday,  and  I  offended  you  without 
cause.  I  promise  that  I  will  act  more  wisely  for  the  future, 
and  Hsten  to  your  advice.  Come,  don't  be  angry,  but  let 
us  be  friends  again." 

"Ah!  father,  Peter  Andreitch,"  he  replied,  with  a  deep 
sigh,  "  I  am  angry  with  myself;  I  alone  am  to  blame.  How 
could  I  leave  you  alone  in  the  inn  !  But  what  else  could  be 
expected  ?  We  are  led  astray  by  sin.  The  thought  came 
into  my  mind  to  go  and  see  the  clerk's  wife,  who  is  my 
gossip.^     But  so  it  was  :    I  went  to  my  gossip,  and  ill-luck 

*  Savelitch  uses  the  word  here  in  its  old  meaning  of  fellow-sponsor. 


came  of  it.  Was  there  ever  such  a  misfortune  !  How  shall 
I  ever  be  able  to  look  in  the  face  of  my  master  and 
mistress  ?  What  will  they  say  when  they  know  that  their 
child  is  a  drunkard  and  a  gambler  ?  " 

In  order  to  console  poor  SaveHtch,  I  gave  him  my  word 
that  I  would  never  again  spend  a  single  copeck^  with- 
out his  consent.  He  calmed  down  by  degrees,  although 
every  now  and  again  he  still  continued  muttering,  with  a 
shake  of  the  head,  "A  hundred  roubles  !  It's  no  laughing 
matter ! " 

I  was  nearing  the  place  of  my  destination.  On  every 
side  of  me  extended  a  dreary-looking  plain,  intersected  by 
hills  and  ravines.  Everything  was  covered  with  snow.  The 
sun  was  setting.  The  kibitka  ^  was  proceeding  along  the 
narrow  road,  or,  to  speak  more  precisely,  along  the  track 
made  by  the  peasants'  sledges  Suddenly  the  driver  began 
gazing  intently  about  him,  and  at  last,  taking  off  his  cap,  he 
turned  to  me  and  said  : 

*'  My  lord,  will  you  not  give  orders  to  turn  back  ?  " 


"  The  weather  does  not  look  very  promising :  the  wind 
is  beginning  to  rise ;  see  how  it  whirls  the  freshly  fallen 
snow  along." 

*'  What  does  that  matter  ?  " 

"  And  do  you  see  that  yonder?" 

And  the  driver  pointed  with  his  whip  towards  the  east. 

"  I  see  nothing,  except  the  white  steppe  and  the  clear 

"  There — away  in  the  distance  :  that  cloud." 

I  perceived,  indeed,  on  the  edge  of  the  horizon,  a  white 
cloud,  which  I  had  taken  at  first  for  a  distant  hill.  The 
driver  explained  to  me  that  this  small  cloud  presaged  a 

*  A  tenth  of  a  penny.  •  A  kind  of  rough  travelling  cart. 


I  had  heard  of  the  snowstorms  of  that  part  of  the 
country,  and  I  knew  that  whole  trains  of  waggons  were 
frequently  buried  in  the  drifts.  Savelitch  was  of  the  same 
opinion  as  the  driver,  and  advised  that  we  should  return. 
But  the  wind  did  not  seem  to  me  to  be  very  strong :  I 
hoped  to  be  able  to  reach  the  next  station  in  good  time, 
and  I  gave  orders  to  drive  on  faster. 

The  driver  urged  on  the  horses  at  a  gallop,  but  he  still 
continued  to  gaze  towards  the  east.  The  horses  entered 
into  their  work  with  a  will.  In  the  meantime  the  wind  had 
gradually  increased  in  violence.  The  little  cloud  had 
changed  into  a  large,  white,  nebulous  mass,  which  rose 
heavily,  and  gradually  began  to  extend  over  the  whole  sky. 
A  fine  snow  began  to  fall,  and  then  all  at  once  this  gave 
place  to  large  heavy  flakes.  The  wind  roared  ;  the  snow- 
storm had  burst  upon  us.  In  one  moment  the  dark  sky 
became  confounded  with  the  sea  of  snow ;  everything  had 

"Well,  my  lord,"  cried  the  driver,  **this  is  a  misfortune; 
it  is  a  regular  snowstorm  !  " 

I  looked  out  of  the  kibitka ;  all  was  storm  and  darkness. 
The  wind  blew  with  such  terrific  violence  that  it  seemed 
as  if  it  were  endowed  with  life.  Savelitch  and  I  were 
covered  with  snow :  the  horses  ploughed  their  way  onward 
at  a  walking  pace,  and  soon  came  to  a  standstill. 

"  Why  don't  you  go  on  ?  "  I  called  out  impatiently  to  the 

"  But  where  am  I  to  drive  to  ? "  he  replied,  jumping 
down  from  his  seat ;  *'  I  haven^t  the  slightest  idea  as  to 
where  we  are  ;  there  is  no  road,  and  it  is  dark  all  round." 

I  began  to  scold  him.     Savelitch  took  his  part. 

'*  You  ought  to  have  taken  his  advice,"  he  said  angrily. 
"  You  should  have  returned  to  the  posting-house  ;  you 
could  have  had  some  tea  and  could  have  slept  there  till  the 


morning ;  the  storm  would  have  blown  over  by  that  time, 
and  then  you  could  have  proceeded  on  your  journey.  And 
why  such  haste  ?  It  would  be  all  very  well  if  we  were  going 
to  a  wedding  !  " 

Savelitch  was  right.  But  what  was  to  be  done?  The 
snow  still  continued  to  fall.  A  drift  began  to  form  around 
the  kibitka.  The  horses  stood  with  dejected  heads,  and 
every  now  and  then  a  shudder  shook  their  frames.  The 
driver  kept  walking  round  them,  and,  being  unable  to  do 
anything  else,  busied  himself  with  adjusting  the  harness. 
Savehtch  grumbled.  I  looked  round  on  every  side,  hoping 
to  discover  some  sign  of  a  house  or  a  road,  but  I  could 
distinguish  nothing  except  the  confused  whirling  snow- 
drifts. ...  Suddenly  I  caught  sight  of  something  black. 

*'Hillo!  driver,"  I  cried;  ''look!  what  is  that  black 
object  yonder?" 

The  driver  looked  carefully  in  the  direction  indicated. 

"  God  knows,  my  lord,"  said  he,  seating  himself  in  his 
place  again  ;  "  it  is  neither  a  sledge  nor  a  tree,  and  it  seems 
to  move.     It  must  be  either  a  man  or  a  wolf." 

I  ordered  him  to  drive  towards  the  unknown  object, 
which  was  gradually  drawing  nearer  to  us.  In  about  two 
minutes  we  came  up  to  it  and  discovered  it  to  be  a  man. 

^*  Hi  !  my  good  man,"  cried  the  driver  to  him ;  "  say,  do 
you  know  where  the  road  is  ?  " 

"The  road  is  here;  I  am  standing  on  a  firm  track," 
replied  the  wayfarer.     "  But  what  of  it  ?  " 

"  Listen,  peasant,"  said  I  to  him  ;  "  do  you  know  this 
country  ?  Can  you  lead  me  to  a  place  where  I  can  obtain  a 
night's  lodging?" 

"  I  know  the  country  very  well,"  replied  the  peasant. 
"  Heaven  be  thanked,  I  have  crossed  it  and  re-crossed  it 
in  every  direction.  But  you  see  what  sort  of  weather  it  is  : 
it  would  be  very  easy  to  miss  the  road.     You  had  much 


better  stay  here  and  wait ;  perhaps  the  storm  will  blow  over, 
and  the  sky-  become  clear,  then  we  shall  be  able  to  find  the 
road  by  the  help  of  the  stars." 

His  cool  indifference  encouraged  me.  I  had  already 
resolved  to  abandon  myself  to  the  will  of  God  and  to  pass 
the  night  upon  the  steppe,  when  suddenly  the  peasant 
mounted  to  the  seat  of  our  vehicle  and  said  to  the  driver : 

"  Thank  Heaven,  there  is  a  house  not  far  off;  turn  to  the 
right  and  go  straight  on." 

"  Why  should  I  go  to  the  right  ?  "  asked  the  driver  in  a 
dissatisfied  tone.  "Where  do  you  see  a  road?  I  am  not 
the  owner  of  these  horses  that  I  should  use  the  whip 
without  mercy." 

The  driver  seemed  to  me  to  be  in  the  right. 

"  In  truth,"  said  I,  "  why  do  you  think  that  there  is  a 
house  not  far  off?  " 

"  Because  the  wind  blows  from  that  direction,"  replied 
the  wayfarer,  "  and  I  can  smell  smoke ;  that  is  a  sign  that 
there  is  a  village  close  at  hand." 

His  sagacity  and  nicety  of  smell  astonished  me.  I 
ordered  the  driver  to  go  on.  The  horses  moved  heavily 
through  the  deep  snow.  The  kibitka  advanced  very  slowly, 
at  one  moment  mounting  to  the  summit  of  a  ridge,  at 
another  sinking  into  a  deep  hollow,  now  rolling  to  one  side, 
and  now  to  the  other.  It  was  very  much  like  being  in  a 
ship  on  a  stormy  sea.  SaveHtch  sighed  and  groaned,  and 
continually  jostled  against  me.  I  let  down  the  cover  of  the 
kibitka^  wrapped  myself  up  in  my  cloak,  and  fell  into  a 
slumber,  lulled  by  the  music  of  the  storm,  and  rocked  by 
the  motion  of  the  vehicle. 

I  had  a  dream  which  I  shall  never  forget,  and  in  which 
I  still  see  something  prophetic  when  I  compare  it  with 
the  strange  events  of  my  life.  The  reader  will  excuse  me 
for  mentioning   the   matter,   for  probably  he  knows  from 


20       poushkin's  prose  tales. 

experience  that  man  is  naturally  given  to  superstition  in 
spite  of  the  great  contempt  entertained  for  it. 

I  was  in  that  condition  of  mind  when  reality  and  imagina- 
tion become  confused  in  the  vague  sensations  attending  the 
first  stage  of  drowsiness.  It  seemed  to  me  that  the  storm 
still  continued,  and  that  we  were  still  wandering  about  the 
wilderness  of  snow.  ...  All  at  once  I  caught  sight  of  a  gate, 
and  we  entered  the  courtyard  of  our  mansion.  My  first 
thought  was  a  fear  that  my  father  would  be  angry  with  me 
for  my  involuntary  return  to  the  paternal  roof,  and  would 
regard  it  as  an  act  of  intentional  disobedience.  With  a 
feeling  of  uneasiness  I  sprang  out  of  the  kibitkay  and  saw 
my  mother  coming  down  the  steps  to  meet  me,  with  a  look 
of  deep  affliction  upon  her  face. 

"  Hush  ! "  she  said  to  me  ;  "  your  father  is  on  the  point 
of  death,  and  wishes  to  take  leave  of  you." 

Struck  with  awe,  I  followed  her  into  the  bedroom.  I 
looked  about  me ;  the  room  was  dimly  lighted,  and  round 
the  bed  stood  several  persons  with  sorrow-stricken  counte- 
nances. I  approached  very  gently ;  my  mother  raised  the 
curtain  and  said  : 

"  Andrei  Petrovitch,  Petrousha  has  arrived ;  he  has  re- 
turned because  he  heard  of  your  illness;  give  him  your 

I  knelt  down  and  fixed  my  eyes  upon  the  face  of  the  sick 
man.  But  what  did  I  see  ?  .  .  .  Instead  of  my  father,  I  saw 
lying  in  the  bed  a  black-bearded  peasant,  who  looked  at 
me  with  an  expression  of  gaiety  upon  his  countenance. 
Greatly  perplexed,  I  turned  round  to  my  mother  and  said 
to  her : 

"  What  does  all  this  mean  ?  This  is  not  my  father.  Why 
should  I  ask  this  peasant  for  his  blessing  ?  " 

*'  It  is  all  the  same,  Petrousha,"  replied  my  mother ;  "  he 
is  your  stepfather ;  kiss  his  hand  and  let  him  bless  you." 

THE  captain's  DAUGHTER.  21 

I  would  not  consent  to  it.  Then  the  peasant  sprang  out 
of  bed,  grasped  the  axe  which  hung  at  his  back,i  j^j^^j  com- 
menced flourishing  it  about  on  every  side.  I  wanted  to 
run  away,  but  I  could  not;  the  room  began  to  get  filled 
with  dead  bodies ;  I  kfept  stumbling  against  them,  and  my 
feet  continually  slipped  in  pools  of  blood.  The  dreadful 
peasant  called  out  to  me  in  a  gentle  voice,  saying : 

*'  Do  not  be  afraid ;  come  and  receive  my  blessing." 

Terror  and  doubt  took  possession  of  me.  ...  At  that 
moment  I  awoke;  the  horses  had  come  to  a  standstill. 
Savelitch  took  hold  of  my  hand,  saying : 

*'  Get  out,  my  lord,  we  have  arrived." 

"  Where  are  we  ?  "  I  asked,  rubbing  my  eyes. 

"At  a  place  of  refuge.  God  came  to  our  help  and  con- 
ducted us  straight  to  the  fence  of  the  house.  Get  out  as 
quickly  as  you  can,  my  lord,  and  warm  yourself." 

I  stepped  out  of  the  kibitka.  The  storm  still  raged, 
although  with  less  violence  than  at  first.  It  was  as  dark  as 
if  we  were  totally  blind.  The  host  met  us  at  the  door, 
holding  a  lantern  under  the  skirt  of  his  coat,  and  conducted 
me  into  a  room,  small,  but  tolerably  clean.  It  was  lit  up  by 
a  pine  torch.  On  the  wall  hung  a  long  rifle,  and  a  tall 
Cossack  cap. 

The  host,  a  Yaikian  Cossack  by  birth,  was  a  peasant  of 
about  sixty  years  of  age,  still  hale  and  strong.  Savelitch 
brought  in  the  tea-chest,  and  asked  for  a  fire  in  order  to 
prepare  some  tea,  which  I  seemed  to  need  at  that  moment 
more  than  at  any  other  time  in  my  life.  The  host  hastened 
to  attend  to  the  matter. 

''Where  is  the  guide?"  I  said  to  Savelitch. 

*'  Here,  your  Excellency,"  replied  a  voice  from  above. 

I  glanced  up  at  the  loft,  and  saw  a  black  beard  and  two 
sparkling  eyes. 

^  The  Russian  peasant  usually  carries  his  axe  behind  him. 


**  Well,  friend,  are  you  cold  ?  " 

"  How  could  I  be  otherwise  than  cold  in  only  a  thin 
tunic  !  I  had  a  fur  coat,  but  why  should  I  hide  my  fault  ? 
— I  pawned  it  yesterday  with  a  brandy-seller ;  the  cold  did 
not  seem  to  be  so  severe." 

At  that  moment  the  host  entered  with  a  smoking  tea-urn ; 
I  offered  our  guide  a  cup  of  tea ;  the  peasant  came  down 
from  the  loft.  His  exterior  seemed  to  me  somewhat  re- 
markable. He  was  about  forty  years  of  age,  of  middle 
height,  thin  and  broad-shouldered.  In  his  black  beard 
streaks  of  grey  were  beginning  to  make  their  appearance ; 
his  large,  lively  black  eyes  were  incessantly  on  the  roll. 
His  face  had  something  rather  agreeable  about  it,  although 
an  expression  of  vindictiveness  could  also  be  detected  upon 
it.  His  hair  was  cut  close  round  his  head.  He  was  dressed 
in  a  ragged  tunic  and  Tartar  trousers.  I  gave  him  a  cup  of 
tea ;  he  tasted  it,  and  made  a  wry  face. 

"  Your  Excellency,"  said  he,  "  be  so  good  as  to  order  a 
glass  of  wine  for  me  ;  tea  is  not  the  drink  for  us  Cossacks." 

I  willingly  complied  with  his  request.  The  landlord 
brought  a  square  bottle  and  a  glass  from  a  cupboard,  went 
up  to  him,  and,  looking  into  his  face,  said : 

*'  Oh  !  you  are  again  in  our  neighbourhood  !  Where  have 
you  come  from?  " 

My  guide  winked  significantly,  and  made  reply : 

"  Flying  in  the  garden,  pecking  hempseed ;  the  old  woman 
threw  a  stone,  but  it  missed  its  aim.  And  how  is  it  with 

"How  is  it  with  us?"  replied  the  landlord,  continuing 
the  allegorical  conversation,  "  they  were  beginning  to  ring 
the  vespers,  but  the  pope's  wife  would  not  allow  it :  the 
pope  is  on  a  visit,  and  the  devils  are  in  the  glebe." 

''Hold  your  tongue,  uncle,"  replied  my  rover;  "when 
there  is  rain,  there  will  be  mushrooms ;  and  when  there  are 


mushrooms,  there  will  be  a  pannier ;  but  now  "  (and  here 
he  winked  again)  *'put  your  axe  behind  your  back;  the 
ranger  is  going  about.  Your  Excellency,  I  drink  to  your 
health  ! " 

With  these  words  he  took  hold  of  the  glass,  made  the 
sign  of  the  cross,  and  drank  off  the  liquor  in  one  draught ; 
then,  bowing  to  me,  he  returned  to  the  loft. 

At  that  time  I  could  not  understand  anything  of  this 
thieves'  slang,  but  afterwards  I  understood  that  it  referred 
to  the  Yaikian  army,  which  had  only  just  then  been  reduced 
to  submission  after  the  revolt  of  1772.  Savelitch  listened 
with  a  look  of  great  dissatisfaction.  He  glanced  very  sus- 
piciously, first  at  the  landlord,  then  at  the  guide.  The  inn, 
or  uniet^  as  it  was  called  in  those  parts,  was  situated  in  the 
middle  of  the  steppe,  far  from  every  habitation  or  village, 
and  had  very  much  the  appearance  of  a  rendezvous  for 
thieves.  But  there  was  no  help  for  it.  We  could  not 
think  of  continuing  our  journey.  The  uneasiness  of  Savelitch 
afforded  me  very  great  amusement.  In  the  meantime  I 
made  all  necessary  arrangements  for  passing  the  night  com- 
fortably, and  then  stretched  myself  upon  a  bench.  Savelitch 
resolved  to  avail  himself  of  the  stove  ^ ;  our  host  lay  down 
upon  the  floor.  Soon  all  in  the  house  were  snoring,  and  I 
fell  into  a  sleep  as  sound  as  that  of  the  grave. 

When  I  awoke  on  the  following  morning,  at  a  somewhat 
late  hour,  I  perceived  that  the  storm  was  over.  The  sun 
was  shining.  The  snow  lay  like  a  dazzling  shroud  over  the 
boundless  steppe.  The  horses  were  harnessed.  I  paid  the 
reckoning  to  the  host,  the  sum  asked  of  us  being  so  very 
moderate  that  even  Savelitch  did  not  dispute  the  matter 
and  commence  to  haggle  about  the  payment  as  was  his 
usual  custom;    moreover,   his  suspicions   of  the   previous 

^  The  usual  sleeping  place  of  the  Russian  peasant. 

24  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

evening  had  completely  vanished  from  his  mind.  I  called 
for  our  guide,  thanked  him  for  the  assistance  he  had  ren- 
dered us,  and  ordered  Savelitch  to  give  him  half  a  rouble 
for  brandy. 

Savelitch  frowned. 

"Half  a  rouble  for  brandy?"  said  he;  "why  so? 
Because  you  were  pleased  to  bring  him  with  you  to  this 
inn  ?  With  your  leave,  my  lord,  but  we  have  not  too  many 
half  roubles  to  spare.  If  we  give  money  for  brandy  to 
everybody  we  have  to  deal  with,  we  shall  very  soon  have  to 
starve  ourselves." 

I  could  not  argue  with  Savelitch.  According  to  my  own 
promise,  the  disposal  of  my  money  was  to  be  left  entirely  to 
his  discretion.  But  I  felt  rather  vexed  that  I  was  not  able 
to  show  my  gratitude  to  a  man  who,  if  he  had  not  rescued 
me  from  certain  destruction,  had  at  least  delivered  me  from 
a  very  disagreeable  position. 

"  Well,"  said  I,  coldly,  "  if  you  will  not  give  him  half  a 
rouble,  give  him  something  out  of  my  wardrobe ;  he  is  too 
thinly  clad.     Give  him  my  hare-skin  pelisse." 

"  In  the  name  of  Heaven,  father,  Peter  Andreitch  ! " 
said  Savehtch,  "why  give  him  your  pelisse?  The  dog  will 
sell  it  for  drink  at  the  first  tavern  that  he  comes  to." 

"  It  is  no  business  of  yours,  old  man,"  said  my  stroller, 
"whether  I  sell  it  for  drink  or  not.  His  Excellency  is 
pleased  to  give  me  a  cloak  from  off  his  own  shoulders ;  it  is 
his  lordly  will,  and  it  is  your  duty,  as  servant,  to  obey,  and 
not  to  dispute." 

"  Have  you  no  fear  of  God,  you  robber  ! "  said  Savelitch, 
in  an  angry  tone.  "  You  see  that  the  child  has  not  yet 
reached  the  age  of  discretion,  and  yet  you  are  only  too  glad 
to  take  advantage  of  his  good-nature,  and  rob  him.  What 
do  you  want  with  my  master's  pelisse?  You  will  not  be 
able  to  stretch  it  across  your  accursed  shoulders." 

THE  captain's  DAUGHTER.  2$ 

"  I  beg  of  you  not  to  show  off  your  wit,"  I  said  to  my 
guardian.     "  Bring  the  pelisse  hither  immediately  ! " 

'*  Gracious  Lord  1 "  groaned  Savelitch,  "  the  pelisse  is 
almost  brand-new  !  If  it  were  to  anybody  deserving  of  it,  it 
would  be  different,  but  to  give  it  to  a  ragged  drunkard  ! " 

However,  the  pelisse  was  brought.  The  peasant  instantly 
commenced  to  try  it  on.  And,  indeed,  the  garment,  which 
I  had  grown  out  of,  and  which  was  rather  tight  for  me,  was 
a  great  deal  too  small  for  him.  But  he  contrived  to  get  it 
on  somehow,  though  not  without  bursting  the  seams  in  the 
effort.  Savelitch  very  nearly  gave  vent  to  a  groan  when  he 
heard  the  stitches  giving  way.  The  stroller  was  exceedingly 
pleased  with  my  present.  He  conducted  me  to  the  kihitka^ 
and  said,  with  a  low  bow  : 

"  Many  thanks,  your  Excellency  !  May  God  reward  you 
for  your  virtue.     I  shall  never  forget  your  kindness." 

He  went  his  way,  and  I  set  out  again  on  my  journey,  with- 
out paying  any  attention  to  Savelitch,  and  I  soon  forgot  all 
about  the  storm  of  the  previous  day,  the  guide,  and  my 

On  arriving  at  Orenburg,  I  immediately  presented  myself 
to  the  general.  He  was  a  tall  man,  but  somewhat  bent  with 
age.  His  long  hair  was  perfectly  white.  His  old  faded 
uniform  recalled  to  mind  the  warrior  of  the  time  of  the 
Empress  Anne,  and  he  spoke  with  a  strong  German  accent. 

I  gave  him  the  letter  from  my  father.  On  hearing  the 
name,  he  glanced  at  me  quickly. 

"  Mein  Gott ! "  said  he,  "  it  does  not  seem  so  very  long 
ago  since  Andrei  Petrovitch  was  your  age,  and  now  what  a 
fine  young  fellow  he  has  got  for  a  son  !    Ac/i !  time,  time  !  " 

He  opened  the  letter  and  began  to  read  it  half  aloud, 
making  his  own  observations  upon  it  in  the  course  of  his 

*' '  Esteemed  Sir,  Ivan  Karlovitch,  I  hope  that  your  Excel- 

26  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

lency  ' — Why  all  this  ceremony  ?  Pshaw  !  Isn't  he  ashamed 
of  himself?  To  be  sure,  discipline  before  everything,  but  is 
that  the  way  to  write  to  an  old  comrade  ? — '  Your  Excellency 
has  not  forgotten ' — Hm  ! — '  and — when — with  the  late 
Field  Marshal  Miin — in  the  campaign — also  Caroline' — Ha, 
brother  !  he  still  remembers  our  old  pranks,  then  ? — '  Now 
to  business. — I  send  you  my  young  hopeful ' — Hm  1 — '  Hold 
him  with  hedgehog  mittens.' — What  are  hedgehog  mittens  ? 
That  must  be  a  Russian  proverb. — What  does  *hold  him 
with  hedgehog  mittens '  mean  ? "  he  repeated,  turning  to 

"  It  means,"  I  replied,  looking  as  innocent  as  I  possibly 
could,  "  to  treat  a  person  kindly,  not  to  be  too  severe,  and 
to  allow  as  much  liberty  as  possible." 

"  Hm  !  I  understand — '  And  do  not  give  him  too  much 
liberty.' — No,  it  is  evident  that  'hedgehog  mittens'  does 
not  mean  that. — '  Enclosed  you  will  find  his  passport' — 
Where  is  it  then  ?  Ah  !  here  it  is. — '  Enrol  him  in  the 
Semenovsky  Regiment' — Very  well,  very  well,  everything 
shall  be  attended  to. — '  Allow  me  without  ceremony  to 
embrace  you  as  an  old  comrade  and  friend.' — Ah  !  at 
last  he  has  got  to  it. — '  Etcetera,  etcetera.* — Well,  my  little 
father,"  said  he,  finishing  the  reading  of  the  letter,  and 
putting  my  passport  on   one   side,   "  everything   shall   be 

arranged ;  you  shall  be  an  officer  in  the  Regiment, 

and  so  that  you  may  lose  no  time,  start  to-morrow  for  the 
fortress  of  Bailogorsk,  where  you  will  be  under  the  command 
of  Captain  Mironof^,  a  good  and  honest  man.  There  you 
will  learn  real  service,  and  be  taught  what  real  discipline  is. 
Orenburg  is  not  the  place  for  you,  there  is  nothing  for  you  to 
do  there;  amusements  are  injurious  to  a  young  man. 
Favour  me  with  your  company  at  dinner  to-day." 

"  This  is  getting  worse  and  worse,"  I  thought  to  myself. 
"  Of  what  use  will  it  be  to  me  to  have  been  a  sergeant  in  the 


Guards  almost  from  my  mother's  womb  !    Whither  has  it  led 

me  ?    To  the Regiment,  and  to  a  dreary  fortress  on  the 

borders  of  the  Kirghis-Kaisaks  steppes  ! " 

I  dined  with  Andrei  Karlovitch,  in  company  with  his  old 
adjutant.  A  strict  German  economy  ruled  his  table,  and  I 
believe  that  the  fear  of  being  obliged  to  entertain  an 
additional  guest  now  and  again  was  partly  the  cause  of  my 
being  so  promptly  banished  to  the  garrison. 

The  next  day  I  took  leave  of  the  general,  and  set  out  foi 
the  place  of  my  destination. 




THE  fortress  of  Bailogorsk  was  situated  about  forty 
versts  ^  from  Orenburg.  The  road  to  it  led  along  the 
steep  bank  of  the  Vaik.^  The  river  was  not  yet  frozen,  and 
its  leaden-coloured  waves  had  a  dark  and  melancholy 
aspect  as  they  rose  and  fell  between  the  dreary  banks 
covered  with  the  white  snow.  Beyond  it  stretched  the 
Kirghis  steppes.  I  sank  into  reflections,  most  of  them  of 
a  gloomy  nature.  Garrison  life  had  little  attraction  for  me, 
I  endeavoured  to  picture  to  myself  Captain  Mironoff,  my 
future  chief;  and  I  imagined^  him  to  be  a  severe,  ill- 
tempered  old  man,  knowing  nothing  except  what  was  con- 
nected with  his  duty,  and  ready  to  arrest  me  and  put  me  on 
bread  and  water  for  the  merest  trifle. 

In  the  meantime  it  began  to  grow  dark,  and  we  quickened 
our  pace. 

"  Is  it  far  to  the  fortress  ?  "   I  inquired  of  our  driver. 

*'  Not  far,"  he  replied,  "  you  can  see  it  yonder." 

I  looked  around  on  every  side,  expecting  to  see  formid- 
able bastions,  towers,  and  ramparts,  but  I  could  see  nothing 
except  a  small  village  surrounded  by  a  wooden  palisade. 
On  one  side  stood  three  or  four  hayricks,  half  covered  with 

'  A  verst  is  two-thirds  of  an  English  mile, 
•  A  tributary  of  the  Oaral, 

THE  captain's   DAUGHTER.  29 

snow ;  on  the  other  a  crooked  looking  windmill,  with  its 
bark  sails  hanging  idly  down. 

"But  where  is  the  fortress?"    I  asked  in  astonishment. 

"  There  it  is,"  replied  the  driver,  pointing  to  the  village, 
and,  as  he  spoke,  we  entered  into  it. 

At  the  gate  I  saw  an  old  cast-iron  gun ;  the  streets  were 
narrow  and  crooked  ;  the  cottages  small,  and  for  the  most 
part  covered  with  thatch.  I  expressed  a  wish  to  be  taken 
to  the  Commandant,  and,  in  about  a  minute,  the  kibitka 
stopped  in  front  of  a  small  wooden  house,  built  on  an 
eminence,  and  situated  near  the  church,  which  was  likewise 
of  wood. 

Nobody  came  out  to  meet  me.  I  made  my  way  to  the 
entrance  and  then  proceeded  to  the  ante-room.  An  old 
pensioner,  seated  at  a  table,  was  engaged  in  sewing  a  blue 
patch  on  the  elbow  of  a  green  uniform  coat.  I  ordered 
him  to  announce  me. 

"Go  inside,  little  father,"  replied  the  pensioner;  "our 
people  are  at  home." 

I  entered  into  a  very  clean  room,  furnished  in  the  old- 
fashioned  style.  In  one  corner  stood  a  cupboard  contain- 
ing earthenware  utensils;  on  the  wall  hung  an  officer's 
diploma,  framed  and  glazed,  and  around  it  were  arranged  a 
few  rude  wood  engravings,  representing  the  "  Capture  of 
Kustrin  and  Otchakoff,"  ^  the  "  Choice  of  the  Bride,"  and  the 
"  Burial  of  the  Cat."  At  the  window  sat  .an  old  woman  in  a 
jerkin,  and  wearing  a  handkerchief  round  her  head.  She 
was  unwinding  thread  which  a  one-eyed  old  man,  dressed 
in  an  officer's  uniform,  held  in  his  outstretched  hands. 

"  What  is  your  pleasure,  little  father  ?  "  she  asked,  con- 
tinuing her  occupation. 

I  replied  that  I  had  come  to  enter  the  service,  and,  in 

^  Taken  from  the  Turks  in  1737  by  the  Russian  troops  under  Count 

30       p6ushkin*s  prose  tales. 

accordance  with  the  regulations,  to  notify  my  arrival  to  the 
Captain  in  command.  And  with  these  words  I  turned 
towards  the  one-eyed  old  man,  whom  I  supposed  to  be  the 
Commandant;  but  the  old  lady  interrupted  me  in  the  speech 
which  I  had  so  carefully  prepared  beforehand. 

"  Ivan  Kouzmitch  ^  is  not  at  home,"  said  she  ;  "  he  has 
gone  to  visit  Father  Gerasim.  But  it  is  all  the  same,  I  am 
his  wife." 

She  summoned  a  maid-servant  and  told  her  to  call  an 
orderly  ofificer.  The  little  old  man  looked  at  me  out  of  his 
one  eye  with  much  curiosity. 

*'May  I  ask,"  said  he,  "in  what  regiment  you  have 
deigned  to  serve  ?  " 

I  satisfied  his  curiosity. 

"And  may  I  ask,"  he  continued,  "why  you  have  ex- 
changed the  Guards  for  this  garrison  ?  " 

I  replied  that  such  was  the  wish  of  the  authorities. 

"  Probably  for  conduct  unbecoming  an  officer  of  the 
Guards  ?  "  continued  the  indefatigable  interrogator. 

"  A  truce  to  your  foolish  chatter,"  said  the  Captain's  wife 
to  him  ;  "  you  see  that  the  young  man  is  tired  after  his 
journey.  He  has  something  else  to  do  than  to  listen  to 
your  nonsense."  Then  turning  to  me  she  added :  "  You 
are  not  the  first,  and  you  will  not  be  the  last.  It  is  a  hard 
life  here,  but  you  will  soon  get  to  like  it.  It  is  five  years 
ago  since  Shvabrin  Alexei  Ivanitch  was  sent  here  to  us  for 
a  murder.  Heaven  knows  what  it  was  that  caused  him  to 
go  wrong.  You  see,  he  went  out  of  the  town  with  a  lieu- 
tenant; they  had  taken  their  swords  with  them,  and  they 
began  to  thrust  at  one  another,  and  Alexei  Ivanitch  stabbed 
the  lieutenant,  and  all  before  two  witnesses !  But  what 
would  you  ?    Man  is  not  master  of  sin." 

*  Ivan  (John),  son  of  Kouzmft.  • 


At  this  moment  the  orderly  officer,  a  young  and  well- 
built  Cossack,  entered  the  room. 

'*  Maximitch,"  said  the  Captain's  wife  to  him,  "  conduct 
this  officer  to  his  quarters,  and  see  that  everything  is 
attended  to." 

'*  I  obey,  Vassilissa  Egorovna,"  replied  the  orderly.  "  Is 
not  his  Excellency  to  lodge  with  Ivan  Polejaeff  ?  " 

"  What  a  booby  you  are,  Maximitch  ! "  said  the  Captain's 
wife.  "Polejaeff's  house  is  crowded  already;  besides,  he  is 
my  gossip,  and  remembers  that  we  are  his  superiors.  Take 
the  officer — what  is  your  name,  little  father  ?  "  ^ 

"  Peter  Andreitch." 

"  Take  Peter  Andreitch  to  Simon  Kouzoff.  The  rascal 
allowed  his  horse  to  get  in  my  kitchen-garden.  .  .  .  And  is 
everything  right,  Maximitch  ?  " 

"  Everything,  thank  God  ! "  replied  the  Cossack  ;  "  only 
Corporal  Prokhoroff  has  been  having  a  squabble  at  the 
bath  with  Ustinia  Pegoulina,  on  account  of  a  can  of  hot 

"  Ivan  Ignatitch,"  said  the  Captain's  wife  to  the  one-eyed 
old  man,  "  decide  between  Prokhoroff  and  Ustinia  as  to 
who  is  right  and  who  is  wrong,  and  then  punish  both. 
Now,  Maximitch,  go,  and  God  be  with  you.  Peter 
Andreitch,  Maximitch  will  conduct  you  to  your  quarters." 

I  bowed  and  took  my  departure.  The  orderly  conducted 
me  to  a  hut,  situated  on  the  steep  bank  of  the  river,  at  the 
extreme  end  of  the  fortress.  One  half  of  the  hut  was 
occupied  by  the  family  of  Simon  Kouzoff;  the  other  was 
given  up  to  me.  It  consisted  of  one  room,  of  tolerable 
cleanliness,  and  was  divided  into  two  by  a  partition. 

Savelitch  began  to  set  the  room  in  order,  and  I  looked 
out  of  the  narrow  window.     Before  me  stretched  a  gloomy 

^  Little  father  {batyushka).     A  familiar  idiom  peculiar  to  the  Russian 



Steppe.  On  one  side  stood  a  few  huts,  and  two  or  three 
fowls  were  wandering  about  the  street.  An  old  woman, 
standing  on  a  doorstep  with  a  trough  in  her  hands,  was 
calling  some  pigs,  which  answered  her  with  friendly  grunts. 
And  this  was  the  place  in  which  I  was  condemned  to  spend 
my  youth !  Grief  took  possession  of  me ;  I  came  away 
from  the  window  and  lay  down  to  sleep  without  eating  any 
supper,  in  spite  of  the  exhortations  of  Savelitch,  who  kept 
repeating  in  a  tone  of  distress  : 

"  Lord  of  heaven  !  he  will  eat  nothing !  What  will  my 
mistress  say  if  the  child  falls  ill  ?  " 

The  next  morning  I  had  scarcely  begun  to  dress  when 
the  door  opened,  and  a  young  officer,  somewhat  short  in 
stature,  with  a  swarthy  and  rather  ill-looking  countenance, 
though  distinguished  by  extraordinary  vivacity,  entered  the 

"Pardon  me,"  he  said  to  me  in  French,  "for  coming 
without  ceremony  to  make  your  acquaintance.  I  heard 
yesterday  of  your  arrival,  and  the  desire  to  see  at  last  a 
fresh  human  face  took  such  possession  of  me,  that  I  could 
not  wait  any  longer.  You  will  understand  this  when  you 
have  lived  here  a  little  while." 

I  conjectured  that  this  was  the  officer  who  had  been  dis- 
missed from  the  Guards  on  account  of  the  duel.  We  soon 
became  acquainted.  Shvabrin  was  by  no  means  a  fool. 
His  conversation  was  witty  and  entertaining.  With  great 
Hveliness  he  described  to  me  the  family  of  the  Comman- 
dant, his  society,  and  the  place  to  which  fate  had  conducted 
me.  I  was  laughing  with  all  my  heart  when  the  old  soldier 
who  had  been  mending  his  uniform  in  the  Commandant's 
ante-chamber,  came  to  me,  and,  in  the  name  of  Vassilissa 
Egorovna,  invited  me  to  dinner.  Shvabrin  declared  that  he 
would  go  with  me. 

On  approaching  the  Commandant's  house,  we  perceived 


on  the  square  about  twenty  old  soldiers,  with  long  pig-tails 
and  three-cornered  hats.  They  were  standing  to  the  front. 
Before  them  stood  the  Commandant,  a  tall  and  sprightly 
old  man,  in  a  nightcap  and  flannel  dressing-gown.  Ob- 
serving us,  he  came  forward  towards  us,  said  a  few  kind  words 
to  me,  and  then  went  on  again  with  the  drilling  of  his  men. 
We  were  going  to  stop  to  watch  the  evolutions,  but  he 
requested  us  to  go  to  Vassilissa  Egorovna,  promising  to 
join  us  in  a  little  while.  "  Here,"  he  added,  "  there  is 
nothing  for  you  to  see." 

Vassilissa  Egorovna  received  us  with  unfeigned  gladness 
and  simplicity,  and  treated  me  as  if  she  had  known  me  all 
my  life.  The  pensioner  and  Palashka  spread  the  table- 

"  What  is  detaining  my  Ivan  Kouzmitch  so  long  to-day?" 
said  the  Commandant's  wife.  "  Palashka,  go  and  call  your 
master  to  dinner,  .  .  .  But  where  is  Masha?"^ 

At  that  moment  there  entered  the  room  a  young  girl  of 

"about  eighteen  years  of  age,  with  a  round,  rosy  face,  and 
light  brown  hair,  brushed  smoothly  back  behind  her  ears, 
which  were  tinged  with  a  deep  blush.  She  did  not  produce 
a  very  favourable  impression  upon  me  at  the  first  glance.  I 
regarded  her  with  prejudiced  eyes.  Shvabrin  had  described 
Masha,  the  Captain's  daughter,  as  a  perfect  idiot.  Maria 
Ivanovna  ^  sat  down  in  a  corner  and  began  to  sew.  >  Mean- 
while, the  cabbage-soup  was  brought  in.  Vassilissa 
Egorovna,  not  seeing  her  husband,  sent  Palashka  after  him 
a  second  time. 

"  Tell  your  master  that  the  guests  are  waiting,  and  that 
the  soup  is  getting  cold.     Thank  Heaven,  the  drill  will  not 

:  run  away  !  he  will  have  plenty  of  time  to  shout  himself 

*  Diminutive  of  Maria  or  Mary. 

^  Mary, 'daughter  of  Ivan  {i.e.,  Masha), 


34  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

The  Captain  soon  made  his  appearance,  accompanied  by 
the  little  one-eyed  old  man. 

"  What  is  the  meaning  of  this,  little  father  ?"  said  his  wife 
to  him ;  "  the  dinner  has  been  ready  a  long  time,  and  you 
would  not  come." 

"  Why,  you  see,  Vassilissa  Egorovna,"  said  Ivan  Kouz- 
mitch,  '*  I  was  occupied  with  my  duties  ;  I  was  teaching  my 
little  soldiers." 

**  Nonsense  ! "  replied  his  wife ;  "  it  is  all  talk  about  your 
teaching  the  soldiers.  The  service  does  not  suit  them,  and 
you  yourself  don't  understand  anything  about  it.  It  would 
be  better  for  you  to  stay  at  home  and  pray  to  God.  My 
dear  guests,  pray  take  your  places  at  the  table." 

We  sat  down  to  dine.  Vassilissa  Egorovna  was  not 
silent  for  a  single  moment,  and  she  overwhelmed  me  with 
questions.  Who  were  my  parents?  Were  they  living? 
Where  did  they  live  ?  How  much  were  they  worth  ?  On 
hearing  that  my  father  owned  three  hundred  souls  :  ^ 

"Really  now!"  she  exclaimed;  *'well,  there  are  some 
rich  people  in  the  world !  As  for  us,  my  little  father,  we 
have  only  our  one  servant-girl,  Palashka  ;  but,  thank  God,  we 
manage  to  get  along  well  enough  !  There  is  only  one  thing 
that  we  are  troubled  about.  Masha  is  an  eligible  girl,  but 
what  has  she  got  for  a  marriage  portion  ?  A  clean  comb,  a 
hand-broom,  and  three  copecks — Heaven  have  pity  upon, 
her ! — to  pay  for  a  bath.  If  she  can  find  a  good  man,  all 
very  well ;  if  not,  she  will  have  to  be  an  old  maid." 

I  glanced  at  Maria  Ivanovna ;  she  was  blushing  all 
over,  and  tears  were  even  falling  into  her  plate.  I  began 
to  feel  pity  for  her,  and  I  hastened  to  change  the  conver- 

"I  have  heard,"    said   I,  as   appropriately  as   I  could, 

*  The  technical  name  for  serfs. 

THE  captain's   DAUGHTER.  35 

"  that  the  Bashkirs  are  assembling  to  make  an  attack  upon 
your  fortress." 

"And  from  whom  did  you  hear  that,  my  little  father?" 
asked  Ivan  Kouzmitch. 

"  They  told  me  so  in  Orenburg,"  I  replied. 

*'  All  nonsense  ! "  said  the  Commandant ;  "  we  have  heard 
nothing  about  them  for  a  long  time.  The  Bashkirs  are  a 
timid  lot,  and  the  Kirghises  have  learnt  a  lesson.  Don't 
be  alarmed,  they  will  not  attack  us;  but  if  they  should 
venture  to  do  so,  we  will  teach  them  such  a  lesson  that 
they  will  not  make  another  move  for  the  next  ten  years." 

"And  are  you  not  afraid,"  continued  I,  turning  to  the 
Captain's  wife,  "  to  remain  in  a  fortress  exposed  to  so  many 
dangers  ? "  - 

"  Habit,  my  little  fatHer,"  she  replied.  "  It  is  twenty 
years  ago  since  they  transferred  us  from  the  regiment  to 
this  place,  and  you  cannot  imagine  how  these  accursed 
heathens  used  to  terrify  me.  If  I  caught  a  glimpse  of  their 
hairy  caps  now  and  then,  or  if  I  heard  their  yells,  will  you 
believe  it,  my  father,  my  heart  would  leap  almost  into  my 
mouth.  But  now  I  am  so  accustomed  to  it  that  I  would 
not  move  out  of  my  place  if  anyone  came  to  tell  me  that 
the  villains  were  prowling  round  the  fortress." 

"Vassilissa  Egorovna  is  a  very  courageous  lady,"  ob- 
served Shvabrin  earnestly ;  "  Ivan  Kouzmitch  can  bear 
witness  to  that." 

"  Yes,  I  believe  you,"  said  Ivan  Kouzmitch ;  "  the  wife  is 
not  one  of  the  timid  ones." 

"And  Maria  Ivanovna,"  I  asked,  "is  she  as  brave  as 

"  Masha  brave  ?  "  replied  her  mother.  "  No,  Masha  is  a 
coward.  Up  to  the  present  time  she  has  never  been  able  to 
hear  the  report  of  a  gun  without  trembling  all  over.  Two 
years  ago,  when  Ivan  Kouzmitch  took  the  idea  into  his 



head  to  fire  off  our  cannon  on  my  name-day,*  my  little 
dove  was  so  frightened  that  she  nearly  died  through 
terror.  Since  then  we  have  never  fired  off  the  accursed 

We  rose  from  the  table.  The  Captain  and  his  wife  went 
to  indulge  in  a  nap,  and  I  accompanied  Shvabrin  to  his 
quarters,  where  I  spent  the  whole  evening. 

^  The  Russians  do  not  keep  the  actual  day  of  their  birth,  but  their 
name-day — that  is,  the  day  kept  in  honour  of  the  saint  after  whom  they 
aj-e  called. 




SEVERAL  weeks  passed  by,  and  my  life  in  the  fortress 
of  Bailogorsk  became  not  only  endurable,  but  even 
agreeable.  In  the  house  of  the  Commandant  I  was  received 
as  one  of  the  family.  Both  husband  and  wife  were  very 
worthy  persons.  Ivan  Kouzmitch,  who  had  risen  from  the 
ranks,  was  a  simple  and  unaffected  man,  but  exceedingly 
honest  and  good-natured.  His  wife  managed  things  gene- 
rally for  him,  and  this  was  quite  in  harmony  with  his  easy- 
going disposition.  Vassilissa  Egorovna  looked  after  the 
business  of  the  service  as  well  as  her  own  domestic  affairs, 
and  ruled  the  fortress  precisely  as  she  did  her  own  house. 
Maria  Ivanovna  soon  ceased  to  be  shy  in  my  presence. 
We  became  acquainted.  I  found  her  a  sensible  and  feeling 
girl.  In  an  imperceptible  manner  I  became  attached  to 
this  good  family,  even  to  Ivan  Ignatitch,  the  one-eyed 
garrison  lieutenant,  whom  Shvabrin  accused  of  being  on 
terms  of  undue  intimacy  with  Vassilissa  Egorovna,  an 
accusation  which  had  not  a  shadow  of  probabiHty  to  give 
countenance  to  it ;  but  Shvabrin  did  not  trouble  himself 
about  that. 

I  was  promoted  to  the  rank  of  officer.  My  duties  were 
not  very  heavy.  In  this  God-protected  fortress  there  was 
neither  parade,  nor  drill,  nor  guard-mounting.  The  Com- 
mandant sometimes  instructed  the  soldiers  for  his  own 
amusement,  but  he  had  not  yet  got  so  far  as  teaching  them 


which  was  the  right-hand  side  and  which  the  left.  Shvabrin 
had  several  French  books  in  his  possession.  I  began  to 
read  them,  and  this  awakened  within  me  a  taste  for  litera- 
ture. In  the  morning  I  read,  exercised  myself  in  trans- 
lating, and  sometimes  even  attempted  to  compose  verses. 
I  dined  nearly  always  at  the  Commandant's,  where  I  gene- 
rally spent  the  rest  of  the  day,  and  where  sometimes  of  an 
evening  came  Father  Gerasim,  with  his  wife,  Akoulina  Pam- 
philovna,  the  greatest  gossip  in  the  whole  neighbourhood. 
It  is  unnecessary  for  me  to  mention  that  Shvabrin  and  I  saw 
each  other  .every  day,  but  his  conversation  began  to  be 
more  disagreeable  the  more  I  saw  of  him.  His  continual 
ridiculing  of  the  Commandant's  family,  and  especially  his 
sarcastic  observations  concerning  Maria  Ivanovna,  annoyed 
me  exceedingly.  There  was  no  other  society  in  the  fortress, 
and  I  wished  for  no  other. 

In  spite  of  the  predictions,  the  Bashkirs  did  not  revolt. 
Tranquillity  reigned  around  our  fortress.  But  the  peace 
was  suddenly  disturbed  by  civil  dissensions. 

I  have  already  mentioned  that  I  occupied  myself  with 
literature.  My  essays  were  tolerable  for  those  days,  and 
Alexander  Petrovitch  Soumarokoff,^  some  years  afterwards, 
praised  them  very  much.  One  day  I  contrived  to  write  a 
little  song  with  which  I  was  much  pleased.  It  is  well- 
known  that,  under  the  appearance  of  asking  advice,  authors 
frequently  endeavour  to  secure  a  well-disposed  listener. 
And  so,  writing  out  my  little  song,  I  took  it  to  Shvabrin, 
who  was  the  only  person  in  the  whole  fortress  who  could 
appreciate  a  poetical  production.  After  a  short  preamble, 
I  drew  my  manuscript  out  of  my  pocket,  and  read  to  him 
the  following  verses : 

^  A  Russian  dramatic  poet,  once  celebrated,  but  now  almost  for- 
gotten. His  most  popular  works  were  two  tragedies,  "Khoreff,"  and 
♦'Demetrius  the  Pretender." 

THE   captain's   DAUGHTER.  39 

•*  I  banish  thoughts  of  love,  and  try 
My  fair  one  to  forget ; 
And,  to  be  free  again,  I  fly 
From  Masha  with  regret. 

**  My  troubled  soul  no  rest  can  know. 
No  peace  of  mind  for  me  ; 
For  wheresoever  I  may  go, 
Those  eyes  I  still  shall  see. 

"  Take  pity,  Masha,  on  this  heart 
Oppressed  by  grief  and  care  ; 
And  let  compassion  rend  apart 
The  clouds  of  dark  despair. " 

"What  do  you  think  of  it?"  I  asked  Shvabrin,  expecting 
that  praise  which  I  considered  I  was  justly  entitled  to.  But, 
to  my  great  disappointment,  Shvabrin,  who  was  generally 
complaisant;  declared  very  peremptorily  that  the  verses 
were  not  worth  much. 

'''And  why?"  I  asked,  hiding  my  vexation. 

"  Because,"  he  replied,  "  such  verses  are  worthy  of  my 
instructor  Tredyakovsky,^  and  remind  me  very  much  of  his 
love  couplets." 

Then  he  took  the  manuscript  from  me  and  began  un- 
mercifully to  pull  to  pieces  every  verse  and  word,  jeering  at 
me  in  the  most  sarcastic  manner.  This  was  more  than  I 
could  endure,  and  snatching  my  manuscript  out  of  his  hand, 
I  told  him  that  I  would  never  show  him  any  more  of  my 
compositions.     Shvabrin  laughed  at  my  threat. 

"  We  shall  see,"  said  he,  "  if  you  will  keep  your  word.  A 
poet  needs  a  listener,  just  as  Ivan  Kouzmitch  needs  his 
decanter  of  brandy  before  dinner.  And  who  is  this  Masha 
to  whom  you  declare  your  tender  passion  and  your  amorous 
distress?     Can  it  be  Maria  Ivanovna?" 

^  A  minor  poet  of  the  last  century. 

40       poushkin's  prose  tales. 

"  That  is  not  your  business,"  replied  I,  frowning ;  "  it  is 
nothing  to  do  with  you  who  she  is.  I  want  neither  your 
opinion  nor  your  conjectures." 

"  Oho  !  my  vain  poet  "and  discreet  lover  ! "  continued 
Shvabrin,  irritating  me  more  and  more.  *'But  listen  to  a 
friend's  advice ;  if  you  wish  to  succeed,  I  advise  you  not  to 
have  recourse  to  writing  verses." 

"What  do  you  mean,  sir?     Please  explain  yourself." 

"  With  pleasure.  I  mean  that  if  you  wish  Masha  Mironoff 
to  meet  you  at  dusk,  instead  of  tender  verses,  you  must 
make  her  a  present  of  a  pair  of  ear-rings." 

My  blood  began  to  boil. 

"Why  have  you  such  an  opinion  of  her?"  I  asked,  with 
difficulty  restraining  my  anger. 

"  Because,"  replied  he,  with  a  fiendish  smile,  "  I  know 
from  experience  her  ways  and  habits." 

'*  You  lie,  scoundrel ! "  I  exclaimed  with  fury.  "  You  lie 
in  the  most  shameless  manner !  " 

Shvabrin  changed  colour. 

"This  shall  not  be  overlooked,"  said  he,  pressing  my 
hand.     "You  shall  give  me  satisfaction." 

"  With  pleasure,  whenever  you  like,"  I  replied,  dehghted 
beyond  measure. 

At  that  moment  I  was  ready  to  tear  him  in  pieces. 

I  immediately  hastened  to  Ivan  Ignatitch,  and  found  him 
with  a  needle  in  his  hand ;  in  obedience  to  the  commands 
of  the  Commandant's  wife  he  was  stringing  mushrooms  for 
drying  during  the  winter. 

"  Ah,  Peter  Andreitch,"  said  he,  on  seeing  me,  "  you  are 
welcome.  May  I  ask  on  what  business  Heaven  has  brought 
you  here  ?  " 

In  a  few  words  I  explained  to  him  that,  having  had  a 
quarrel  with  Shvabrin,  I  came  to  ask  him — Ivan  Ignatitch — 
to  be  my  second. 


Ivan  Ignatitch  listened  to  me  with  great  attention,  keep- 
ing his  one  eye  fixed  upon  me  all  the  while. 

"  You  wish  to  say,"  he  said  to  me,  "  that  you  want  to  kill 
Shvabrin,  and  that  you  would  like  me  to  be  a  witness  to  it  ? 
Is  that  so,  may  I  ask  ? 

"  Exactly  so." 

"  In  the  name  of  Heaven,  Peter  Andreitch,  whatever  are  you 
thinking  of!  You  have  had  a  quarrel  with  Shvabrin.  What 
a  great  misfortune  !  A  quarrel  should  not  be  hung  round 
one's  neck.  He  has  insulted  you,  and  you  have  insulted 
him ;  he  gives  you  one  in  the  face,  and  you  give  him  one 
behind  the  ear ;  a  second  blow  from  him,  another  from  you 
— and  then  each  goes  his  own  way;  in  a  little  while  we 
bring  about  a  reconciUation.  ...  Is  it  right  to  kill  one's 
neighbour,  may  I  ask  ?  And  suppose  that  you  do  kill  him 
— God  be  with  him  !  I  have  no  particular  love  for  him. 
But  what  if  he  were  to  let  daylight  through  you  ?  How 
about  the  matter  in  that  case  ?  Who  would  be  the  worst  off 
then,  may  I  ask  ?  " 

The  reasonings  of  the  discreet  lieutenant  produced  no 
effect  upon  me ;  I  remained  firm  in  my  resolution. 

'*As  you  please,"  said  Ivan  Ignatitch;  "do  as  you  like. 
But  why  should  I  be  a  witness  to  it  ?  People  fight, — what 
is  there  wonderful  in  that,  may  I  ask  ?  Thank  Heaven  !  I 
have  fought  against  the  Swedes  and  the  Turks,  and  have 
seen  enough  of  every  kind  of  fighting." 

I  endeavoured  to  explain  to  him,  as  well  as  I  could,  the 
duty  of  a  second ;  but  Ivan  Jgnatitch  could  not  understand 
me  at  all. 

"  Have  your  own  way,"  said  he ;  "  but  if  I  ought  to  mix 
myself  up  in  the  matter  at  all,  it  should  be  to  go  to  Ivan 
Kouzmitch  and  report  to  him,  in  accordance  with  the 
rules  of  the  service,  that  there  was  a  design  on  foot  to 
commit  a  crime  within  the  fortress,  contrary  to  the  interest 

42  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

of  the  crown,  and  to  request  him  to  take  the  necessary 
measures " 

I  felt  alarmed,  and  implored  Ivan  Ignatitch  not  to  say 
anything  about  the  matter  to  the  Commandant ;  after  much 
difficulty  I  succeeded  in  talking  him  over,  he  gave  me  his 
word,  and  then  I  took  leave  of  him. 

I  spent  the  evening  as  usual  at  the  Commandant's  house. 
I  endeavoured  to  appear  gay  and  indifferent,  so  as  not  to 
excite  suspicion,  and  in  order  to  avoid  importunate  ques- 
tions ;  but  I  confess  that  I  had  not  that  cool  assurance 
which  those  who  find  themselves  in  my  position  nearly 
always  boast  about.  That  evening  I  was  disposed  to  be 
tender  and  sentimental.  Maria  Ivanovna  pleased  me  more 
than  usual.  The  thought  that  perhaps  I  was  looking  at  her 
for  the  last  time,  imparted  to  her  in  my  eyes  something 
touching.  Shvabrin  likewise  put  in  an  appearance.  I  took 
him  aside  and  informed  him  of  my  interview  with  Ivan 

"What  do  we  want  seconds  for?"  said  he,  drily;  *'we 
can  do  without  them." 

We  agreed  to  fight  behind  the  hayricks  which  stood  near 
the  fortress,  and  to  appear  on  the  ground  at  seven  o'clock 
the  next  morning. 

We  conversed  together  in  such  an  apparently  amicable 
manner  that  Ivan  Ignatitch  was  nearly  betraying  us  in  the 
excess  of  his  joy. 

"  You  should  have  done  that  long  ago,"  he  said  to  me, 
with  a  look  of  satisfaction ;  "  a  bad  reconciliation  is  better 
than  a  good  quarrel." 

"  What's  that,  what's  that,  Ivan  Ignatitch  ? "  said  the 
Commandant's  wife,  who  was  playing  at  cards  in  a  corner. 
"  I  did  not  hear  what  you  said." 

Ivan  Ignatitch,  perceiving  signs  of  dissatisfaction  upon 
my  face,  and  remembering  his  promise,  became  confused, 


and  knew  not  what  reply  to  make.  Shvabrin  hastened  to 
his  assistance. 

"  Ivan  Ignatitch,"  said  he,  "  approves  of  our  reconcilia- 

"And  with  whom  have  you  been  quarrelling,  my  little 

"Peter  Andreitch  and  I  have  had  rather  a  serious  fall 

"  What  about  ?  " 

"  About  a  mere  trifle — about  a  song,  Vassilissa  Egorovna." 

"  A  nice  thing  to  quarrel  about,  a  song  !  But  how  did  it 
happen  ?  " 

"  In  this  way.  Peter  Andreitch  composed  a  song  a  short 
time  ago,  and  this  morning  he  began  to  sing  it  to  me,  and  I 
began  to  hum  my  favourite  ditty  : 

*  Daughter  of  the  Captain, 
Walk  not  out  at  midnight.' 

'Then  there  arose  a  disagreement.  Peter  Andreitch  grew 
angry,  but  then  he  reflected  that  everyone  likes  to  sing 
what  pleases  him  best,  and  there  the  matter  ended." 
'  Shvabrin's  insolence  nearly  made  me  boil  over  with  fury  ; 
but  nobody  except  myself  understood  his  coarse  insinua- 
tions ;  at  least,  nobody  paid  any  attention  to  them.  From 
songs  the  conversation  turned  upon  poets,  and  the  Com- 
mandant observed  that  they  were  all  rakes  and  terrible 
drunkards,  and  advised  me  in  a  friendly  manner  to  have 
nothing  to  do  with  poetry,  as  it  was  contrary  to  the  rules  of 
the  service,  and  would  lead  to  no  good. 

Shvabrin's  presence  was  insupportable  to  me.  I  soon  took 
leave  of  the  Commandant  and  his  family,  and  returned 
home.  I  examined  my  sword,  tried  the  point  of  it,  and 
then  lay  down  to  sleep,  after  giving  Savelitch  orders  to  wake 
me  at  seven  o'clock. 

The  next  morning,  at  the  appointed  hour,  I  stood  ready 


behind  the   hayricks,    awaiting   my   adversary.     He  soon 
made  his  appearance. 

"We  may  be  surprised,"  he  said  to  me,  "so  we  must 
make  haste." 

We  took  off  our  uniforms,  remaining  in  our  waistcoats, 
and  drew  our  swords.  At  that  moment  Ivan  Ignatitch  and 
five  of  the  old  soldiers  suddenly  made  their  appearance 
from  behind  a  hayrick,  and  summoned  us  to  go  before  the 
Commandant.  We  obeyed  with  very  great  reluctance ;  the 
soldiers  surrounded  us,  and  we  followed  behind  Ivan 
Ignatitch,  who  led  the  way  in  triumph,  striding  along  with 
majestic  importance. 

We  reached  the  Commandant's  house.  Ivan  Ignatitch 
threw  open  the  door,  exclaiming  triumphantly : 

"  Here  they  are  ! " 
•    Vassilissa  Egorovna  came  towards  us. 

"  What  is  the  meaning  of  all  this,  my  dears  ?  A  plot  to 
commit  murder  in  our  fortress  !  Ivan  Kouzmitch,  put 
them  under  arrest  immediately  !  Peter  Andreitch  !  Alexei 
Ivanitch !  Give  up  your  swords — give  them  up  at  once  ! 
Palashka,  take  the  swords  into  the  pantry.  Peter  Andreitch, 
I  did  not  expect  this  of  you  !  Are  you  not  ashamed  ?  As 
regards  Alexei  Ivanitch,  he  was  turned  out  of  the  Guards 
for  killing  a  man ;  he  does  not  believe  in  God.  Do  you 
wish  to  be  like  him  ?  " 

Ivan  Kouzmitch  agreed  with  everything  that  his  wife  said, 
and  added : 

"  Yes,  Vassilissa  Egorovna  speaks  the  truth ;  duels  are 
strictly  forbidden  by  the  articles  of  war." 

In  the  meanwhile  Palashka  had  taken  our  swords  and 
carried  them  to  the  pantry.  I  could  not  help  smiling. 
Shvabrin  preserved  his  gravity. 

"  With  all  due  respect  to  you,"  he  said  coldly  to  her,  "  I 
cannot   but   observe  that   you   give   yourself  unnecessary 

THE  captain's  DAUGHTER.  45 

trouble  in  constituting  yourself  our  judge.  Leave  that  to 
Ivan  Kouzmitch  j  it  is  his  business." 

'*  What  do  you  say,  my  dear ! "  exclaimed  the  Com- 
mandant's wife.  "  Are  not  husband  and  wife,  then,  one  soul 
and  one  body  ?  Ivan  Kouzmitch  !  what  are  you  staring  at  ? 
Place  them  at  once  in  separate  corners  on  bread  and  water, 
so  that  they  may  be  brought  to  their  proper  senses,  and  then 
let  Father  Gerasim  impose  a  penance  upon  them,  that  they 
may  pray  to  God  for  forgiveness,  and  show  themselves 
repentant  before  men." 

Ivan  Kouzmitch  knew  not  what  to  do.  Maria  lyanovna 
was  exceedingly  pale.  Gradually  the  storm  blew  over ;  the 
Commandant's  wife  recovered  her  composure,  and  ordered 
us  to  embrace  each  other.  Palashka  brought  back  our  swords 
to  us.  We  left  the  Commandant's  house  to  all  appearance 
perfectly  reconciled.     Ivan  Ignatitch  accompanied  us. 

"  Were  you  not  ashamed,"  I  said  angrily  to  him,  **  to  go 
and  report  us  to  the  Commandant,  after  having  given  me 
your  word  that  you  would  not  do  so  ?  " 

"  As  true  as  there  is  a  heaven  above  us,  I  did  not  menti6n 
a  word  about  the  matter  to  Ivan  Kouzmitch,"  he  replied. 
"Vassilissa  Egorovna  got  everything  out  of  me.  She 
arranged  the  whole  business  without  the  Commandant's 
knowledge.  However,  Heaven  be  thanked  that  it  has  all 
ended  in  the  way  that  it  has  ! " 

With  these  words  he  returned  home,  and  Shvabrin  and  I 
remained  alone. 

"  Our  business  cannot  end  in  this  manner,"  I  said  to  him. 

"  Certainly  not,"  replied  Shvabrin  ;  "  your  blood  shall 
answer  for  your  insolence  to  me  ;  but  we  shall  doubtless  be 
watched.  For  a  few  days,  therefore,  we  must  dissemble. 
Farewell,  till  we  meet  again." 

And  we  parted  as  if  nothing  were  the  matter. 

Returning  to  the  Commandant's  house  I  seated  myself,  as 

4.6  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

usual,  near  Maria  Ivanovna.  Ivan  Kouzmitch  was  not  at 
home.  Vassilissa  Egorovna  was  occupied  with  household 
matters.  We  were  conversing  together  in  an  under  tone. 
Maria  Ivanovna  reproached  me  tenderly  for  the  uneasiness 
which  I  had  caused  them  all  by  my  quarrel  with  Shvabrin. 

**I  almost  fainted  away,"  said  she,  "when  they  told  us  that 
you  intended  to  fight  with  swords.  What  strange  beings  men 
are  !  For  a  single  word,  which  they  would  probably  forget  a 
week  afterwards,  they  are  ready  to  murder  each  other  and 
to  sacrifice  not  only  their  life,  but  their  conscience  and  the 

happiness  of  those But  I  am  quite  sure  that  you  did  not 

begin  the  quarrel.  Without  doubt,  Alexei  Ivanitch  first 
began  it." 

''Why  do  you  think  so,  Maria  Ivanovna?" 

"Because — he  is  so  sarcastic.  I  do  not  like  Alexei 
Ivanitch.  He  is  very  disagreeable  to  me ;  yet  it  is  strange  : 
I  should  not  like  to  displease  him.  That  would  cause  me 
great  uneasiness." 

"And  what  do  you  think,  Maria  Ivanovna — do  you 
please  him  or  not  ?  ** 

Maria  Ivanovna  blushed  and  grew  confused. 

"  I  think,"  said  she,  "  I  believe  that  I  please  him." 

"  And  why  do  you  think  so  ?  " 

."  Because  he  once  proposed  to  me." 

"  Proposed  !    He  proposed  to  you  ?    And  when  ?  " 

"  Last  year ;  two  months  before  your  arrival." 

"  And  you  refused  ?  " 

"  As  you  see.  Alexei  Ivanitch  is,  to  be  sure,  a  sensible 
man  and  of  good  family,  and  possesses  property ;  but  when 
I  think  that  I  should  have  to  kiss  him  under  the  crown  ^  in 
the  presence  of  everybody — no  !  not  for  anything  in  the 
world  !  " 

^  Crowns  are  held  above  the  heads  of  the  bride  and  bridegroom 
during  the  marriage  ceremony  in  Russia. 


Maria  Ivanovna's  words  opened  my  eyes  and  explained  a 
great  many  things.  I  now  understood  why  Shvabrin  calum- 
niated her  so  remorselessly.  He  had  probably  observed  our 
mutual  inclination  towards  each  other,  and  endeavoured  to 
produce  a  coolness  between  us.  The  words  which  had 
been  the  cause  of  our  quarrel  appeared  to  me  still  more 
abominable,  when,  instead  of  a  coarse  and  indecent  jest,  I 
was  compelled  to  look  upon  them  in  the  light  of  a  deliberate 
calumny.  The  wish  to  chastise  the  insolent  slanderer  became 
still  stronger  within  me,  and  I  waited  impatiently  for  a  favour- 
able opportunity  for  putting  it  into  execution. 

I  did  not  wait  long.  The  next  day,  when  I  was  occupied 
in  composing  an  elegy,  and  sat  biting  my  pen  while  trying 
to  think  of  a  rhyme,  Shvabrin  tapped  at  my  window.  I  threw 
down  my  pen,  took  up  my  sword,  and  went  out  to  him. 

"  Why  should  we  delay  any  longer  ? "  said  Shvabrin ; 
"nobody  is  observing  us.  Let  us  go  down  to  the  river; 
there  no  one  will  disturb  us." 

We  set  out  in  silence.  Descending  a  winding  path,  we 
stopped  at  the  edge  of  the  river  and  drew  our  swords. 
Shvabrin  was  more  skilful  in  the  use  of  the  weapon  than  I, 
but  I  was  stronger  and  more  daring,  and  Monsieur  Beaupr^, 
who  had  formerly  been  a  soldier,  had  given  me  some  lessons 
in  fencing  which  I  had  turned  to  good  account.  Shvabrin 
had  not  expected  to  find  in  me  such  a  dangerous  adversary. 
For  along  time  neither  of  us  was  able  to  inflict  any  injury 
upon  the  other ;  at  last,  observing  that  Shvabrin  was  begin- 
ning to  relax  his  endeavours,  I  commenced  to  attack  him  with 
increased  ardour,  and  almost  forced  him  back  into  the  river. 
All  at  once  I  heard  my  name  pronounced  in  a  loud  tone. 
I  looked  round  and  perceived  Savelitch  hastening  down  the 
path  towards  me.  ...  At  that  same  moment  I  felt  a  sharp 
thrust  in  the  breast,  beneath  the  right  shoulder,  and  I  fell 
senseless  to  the  ground, 




ON  recovering  consciousness  I  for  some  time  could 
neither  understand  nor  remember  what  had  hap- 
pened to  me.  I  was  lying  in  bed  in  a  strange  room,  and 
felt  very  weak.  Before  me  stood  Savelitch  with  a  candle 
in  his  hand.  Someone  was  carefully  unwinding  the  bandages 
which  were  wrapped  round  my  chest  and  shoulder.  Little  by 
Httle  my  thoughts  became  more  collected.  I  remembered 
my  duel  and  conjectured  that  I  was  wounded.  At  that 
moment  the  door  creaked. 

"  Well,  how  is  he  ?  "  whispered  a  voice  which  sent  a  thrill 
through  me. 

"Still  in  the  same  condition,"  replied  Savelitch  with  a 
sigh ;  "  still  unconscious,  and  this  makes  the  fifth  day  that 
he  has  been  like  it." 

I  wanted  to  turn  round,  but  I  was  unable  to  do  so. 

*'  Where  am  I  ?  Who  is  here  ?  "  said  I  with  an  effort. 

Maria  Ivanovna  approached  my  bed  and  leaned  over  me. 

*'  Well,  how  do  you  feel?"  said  she. 

"God  be  thanked !"  replied  I  in  a  weak  voice.  "Is  it 
you,  Maria  Ivanovna  ?    Tell  me " 

I  had  not  the  strength  to  continue  and  I  became  silent. 
Savelitch  uttered  a  shout  and  his  face  beamed  with  delight. 

"  He  has  come  to  himself  again  !  He  has  come  to  him- 
self again  !"  he  kept  on  repeating.  "Thanks  be  to  Thee, 
0  Lord  1    Come,  little  father,  Peter  Andreitch  !    What  a 

THE  captain's  DAUGHTER.  49 

fright  you  have  given  me  !  It  is  no  light  matter ;  this  is  the 
fifth  day " 

Maria  Ivanovna  interrupted  him. 

"  Do  not  speak  to  him  too  much,  Savelitch,"  said  she, 
"  he  is  still  very  weak." 

She  went  out  of  the  room  and  closed  the  door  very 
quietly  after  her.  My  thoughts  became  agitated.  And  so 
I  was  in  the  house  of  the  Commandant ;  Maria  Ivanovna 
had  been  to  see  me.  I  wanted  to  ask  Savelitch  a  few 
questions,  but  the  old  man  shook  his  head  and  stopped  his 
ears.  Filled  with  vexation,  I  closed  my  eyes  and.  soon  fell 

When  I  awoke  I  called  Savelitch,  but  instead  of  him  I 
saw  Maria  Ivanovna  standing  before  me ;  she  spoke  to  me 
in  her  angelic  voice.  I  cannot  describe  the  delightful 
sensation  which  took  possession  of  me  at  that  moment.  I 
seized  her  hand,  pressed  it  to  my  lips,  and  watered  it  with 
my  tears.  Maria  did  not  withdraw  it  ...  .  and  suddenly 
her  lips  touched  my  cheek,  and  I  felt  a  hot  fresh  kiss  im- 
printed upon  it.     A  fiery  thrill  passed  through  me. 

"Dear,  good  Maria  Ivanovna,"  I  said  to  her,  "be  my 
wife,  consent  to  make  me  happy." 

She  recovered  herself. 

"For  Heaven's  sake,  calm  yourself,"  said  she, withdrawing 
her  hand  from  my  grasp;  "you  are  not  yet  out  of  danger  : 
your  wound  may  re-open.  Take  care  of  yourself,  if  only 
for  my  sake." 

With  these  words  she  left  the  room,  leaving  me  in  a 
transport  of  bliss.  Happiness  saved  me.  "She  will  be 
mine !  She  loves  me ! "  This  thought  filled  my  whole 

From  that  moment  I  grew  hourly  better.  The  regimental 
barber  attended  to  the  dressing  of  my  wound,  for  there  was 
no  other  doctor  in  the  fortress,  and,  thank  heaven,  he  did 


not  assume  any  airs  of  professional  wisdom.  Youth  and 
nature  accelerated  my  recovery.  The  whole  family  of  the 
Commandant  attended  upon  me.  Maria  Ivanovna  scarcely 
ever  left  my  side.  As  will  naturally  be  supposed,  I  seized 
the  first  favourable  opportunity  for  renewing  my  interrupted 
declaration  of  love,  and  this  time  Maria  Ivanovna  listened 
to  me  more  patiently. 

Without  the  least  affectation  she  confessed  that  she  was 
favourably  disposed  towards  me,  and  said  that  her  parents, 
without  doubt,  would  be  pleased  at  her  good  fortune. 

"  But  think  well,"  she  added ;  "  will  there  not  be  oppo- 
sition on  the  part  of  your  relations  ?  " 

This  set  me  thinking.  I  was  not  at  all  uneasy  on  the 
score  of  my  mother's  affection ;  but,  knowing  my  father's 
disposition  and  way  of  thinking,  I  felt  that  my  love  would 
not  move  him  very  much,  and  that  he  would  look  upon  it 
as  a  mere  outcome  of  youthful  folly. 

I  candidly  confessed  this  to  Maria  Ivanovna,  but  I  re- 
\  solved,  nevertheless,  to  write  to  my  father  as  eloquently  as 
possible,  to  implore  his  paternal  blessing.  I  showed  the 
letter  to  Maria  Ivanovna,  who  found  it  so  convincing  and 
touching,  that  she  entertained  no  doubts  about  the  success 
of  it,  and  abandoned  herself  to  the  feelings  of  her  tender 
heart  with  all  the  confidence  of  youth  and  love. 
-  With  Shvabrin  I  became  reconciled  during  the  first  days 
of  my  convalescence.  Ivan  Kouzmitch,  reproaching  me  for 
having  engaged  in  the  duel,  said  to  me : 

"See  now,  Peter  Andreitch,  I  ought  really  to  put  you 
under  arrest,  but  you  have  been  punished  enough  already 
without  that.  As  for  Alexei  Ivanitch,  he  is  confined  under 
guard  in  the  corn  magazine,  and  Vassilissa  Egorovna  has 
got  his  sword  under  lock  and  key.  He  will  now  have 
plenty  of  time  to  reflect  and  repent." 

I  was  too  happy  to  cherish  any  unfriendly  feeling  in  my 

THE  captain's   DAUGHTER.  5 1 

heart.  I  began  to  intercede  for  Shvabrin,  and  the  good 
Commandant,  with  the  consent  of  his  wife,  agreed  to  restore 
him  to  liberty. 

Shvabrin  came  to  me ;  he  expressed  deep  regret  for  all 
that  had  happened,  confessed  that  he  alone  was  to  blame, 
and  begged  of  me  to  forget  the  past.  Not  being  by  nature 
of  a  rancorous  disposition,  I  readily  forgave  him  the  quarrel 
which  he  had  caused  between  us,  and  the  wound  which  I 
had  received  at  his  hands.  In  his  slander  I  saw  nothing 
but  the  chagrin  of  wounded  vanity  and  slighted  love,  and 
I  generously  extended  pardon  to  my  unhappy  rival. 

I  soon  recovered  my  health  and  was  able  to  return  to  my 
own  quarters.  I  waited  impatiently  for  a  reply  to  my  letter, 
not  daring  to  hope,  and  endeavouring  to  stifle  the  sad  pre- 
sentiment that  was  ever  uppermost  within  me.  To  Vassi- 
Hssa  Egorovna  and  her  husband  I  had  not  yet  given  an 
explanation ;  but  my  proposal  would  certainly  not  come  as  a 
surprise  to  them.  Neither  Maria  Ivanovna  nor  I  had 
endeavoured  to  hide  our  feelings  from  them,  and  we  felt 
assured  of  their  consent  beforehand. 

At  last,  one  morning,  Savelitch  came  to  me  carrying  a 
letter  in  his  hand.  I  seized  it  with  trembling  fingers.  The 
address  was  in  the  handwriting  of  my  father.  This  prepared 
me  for  something  serious,  for  the  letters  I  received  from 
home  were  generally  written  by  my  mother,  my  father 
merely  adding  a  few  lines  at  the  end  as  a  postscript.  For 
a  long  time  I  could  not  make  up  my  mind  to  break  the  seal, 
but  kept  reading  again  and  again  the  solemn  superscription  : 

"  To  my  son,  Peter  Andreitch  Grineff, 
**  Government  ^  of  Orenburg, 

"  Fortress  of  Bailogorsk.** 

*  For  administrative  purposes  Russia  is  divided  into  seventy-two 
governments,  exclusive  of  Finland,  which  enjoys  a  separate  adminis- 


52  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

I  endeavoured  to  discover  from  the  handwriting  the  dis- 
position of  mind  which  my  father  was  in  when  the  letter 
was  written.  At  last  I  resolved  to  open  it,  and  I  saw  at  the 
very  first  glance  that  all  my  hopes  were  shipwrecked.  The 
letter  ran  as  follows  : — 

"  My  son  Peter, 

''  Your  letter,  in  which  you  ask  for  our  paternal 
blessing  and  our  consent  to  your  marriage  with  Maria 
Ivanovna,  the  daughter  of  Mironoff,  reached  us  the  15th 
inst.,  and  not  only  do  I  intend  to  refuse  to  give  you  my 
blessing  and  my  consent,  but,  furthermore,  I  intend  to  come 
and  teach  you  a  lesson  for  your  follies,  as  I  would  a  child, 
notwithstanding  your  officer's  rank;  for  you  have  shown 
yourself  unworthy  to  carry  the  sword  which  was  entrusted 
to  you  for  the  defence  of  your  native  country,  and  not  for 
the'  purpose  of  fighting  duels  with  fools  like  yourself.  I 
shall  write  at  once  to  Andrei  Karlovitch  to  ask  him  to 
transfer  you  from  the  fortress  of  Bailogorsk  to  some  place 
farther  away,  where  you  will  be  cured  of  your  folly.  Your 
mother,  on  hearing  of  your  duel  and  your  wound,  was  taken 
ill  through  grief,  and  she  is  now  confined  to  her  bed.  I 
pray  to  God  that  He  may  correct  you,  although  I  hardly 
dare  to  put  my  trust  in  His  great  goodness. 

*'  Your  father— A.  G." 

The  reading  of  this  letter  excited  within  me  various 
feelings.  The  harsh  expressions  which  my  father  had  so 
unsparingly  indulged  in  afflicted  me  deeply.  The  con- 
tempt with  which  he  referred  to  Maria  Ivanovna  appeared  to 
me  as  indecent  as  it  was  unjust.  The  thought  of  my  being 
transferred  from  the  fortress  of  Bailogorsk  to  some  other 
military  station  terrified  me,  but  that  which  grieved  me 
more   than   everything   else   was   the   intelligence    of    my 


mother's  illness.  I  was  very  much  displeased  with  Savelitch, 
not  doubting  that  my  parents  had  obtained  information  of 
my  duel  through  him.  After  pacing  up  and  down  my  narrow 
room  for  some  time,  I  stopped  before  him  and  said,  as  I^ 
looked  frown  in  gly  at  him  : 

"  It  seems  that  you  are  not  satisfied  that,  thanks  to  you, 
I  should  be  wounded  and  for  a  whole  month  lie  at  the 
door  of  death,  but  you  wish  to  kill  my  mother  also." 

Savelitch  gazed  at  me  as  if  he  were  thunderstruck. 

"  In  the  name  of  Heaven,  master,"  said  he,  almost  sob- 
bing, "  what  do  you  mean?  I  the  cause  of  your  being 
wounded  !  God  knows  that  I  was  running  to  screen  you 
with  my  own  breast  from  the  sword  of  Alexei  Ivanovitch  ! 
My  accursed  old  age  prevented  me  from  doing  so.  But 
what  have  I  done  to  your  mother  ?  " 

'*What  have  you  done?"  replied  I.  "Who  asked  you  to 
write  and  denounce  me?  Have  you  then  been  placed  near 
me  to  act  as  a  spy  upon  me  ?  " 

"  I  write  and  denounce  you  ?"  replied  SaveHtch,  with  tears 
in  his  eyes.  "  O  Lord,  King  of  Heaven  !  Be  pleased  to 
read  what  my  master  has  written  to  me — you  will  then  see 
whether  I  have  denounced  you  or  not." 

And  with  these  words  he  took  from  his  pocket  a  letter 
and  handed  it  to  me. 

It  ran  as  follows  : — 

*'  You  ought  to  be  ashamed  of  yourself,  you  old  hound, 
for  not  having — in  spite  of  my  strict  injunctions  to  you  to 
do  so — written  to  me  and  informed  me  of  the  conduct  of 
my  son,  Peter  Andreitch,  and  leaving  it  to  strangers  to 
acquaint  me  with  his  follies.  Is  it  thus  that  you  fulfil  your 
duty  and  your  master's  will  ?  I  will  send  you  to  tend  the 
pigs,  you  old  hound,  for  conceaUng  the  truth  and  for  in- 
dulging the  young  man.  On  receipt  of  this,  I  command 
you  to  write  back  to  me  without  delay,  and  inform  me  of 


the  present  state  of  his  health,  of  the  exact  place  of  his 
wound,  and  whether  he  has  been  well  attended  to." 

It  was  evident  that  Savelitch  was  perfectly  innocent,  and 
that  I  had  insulted  him  with  my  reproaches  and  suspicions 
for  no  reason  at  all.  I  asked  his  pardon ;  but  the  old  man 
was  inconsolable. 

"  That  I  should  have  lived  to  come  to  this ! "  he  kept  on 
repeating;  "these  are  the  thanks  that  I  receive  from  my 
master.  I  am  an  old  hound,  a  keeper  of  pigs,  and  I  am 
the  cause  of  your  being  wounded.  No,  little  father,  Peter 
Andreitch,  it  is  not  I,  but  that  accursed  mossoo  who  is  to 
blame :  it  was  he  who  taught  you  to  thrust  with  those  iron 
spits  and  to  stamp  your  foot,  as  if  by  thrusting  and  stamping 
one  could  protect  himself  from  a  bad  man.  It  was  very 
necessary  to  engage  that  mossoo  and  so  throw  good  money 
to  the  winds  ! " 

But  who  then  had  taken  upon  himself  the  trouble  to 
denounce  my  conduct  to  my  father  ?  The  general  ?  But 
he  did  not  appear  to  trouble  himself  in  the  least  about  me ; 
and  Ivan  Kouzmitch  had  not  considered  it  necessary  to 
report  my  duel  to  him.  I  became  lost  in  conjecture.  My 
suspicions  settled  upon  Shvabrin.  He  alone  could  derive 
any  advantage  from  the  denunciation,  the  result  of  which 
might  be  my  removal  from  the  fortress  a^d  separation  from 
the  Commandant's  family.  I  went  to  inform  Maria  Ivanovna 
of  everything.  She  met  me  on  the  steps  leading  up  to  the 

"What  has  happened,  to  you?"  said  she,  on  seeing  me; 
"  how  pale  you  are  ! " 

"  It  is  all  over,"  replied  I,  and  I  gave  her  my  father's 

She  now  grew  pale  in  her  turn.  Having  read  the  letter, 
she  returned  it  to  me  with  a  trembling  hand,  and  said,  with 
a  quivering  voice  : 



"  Fate  ordains  that  I  should  not  be  your  wife.  .  .  .  Your 
parents  will  not  receive  me  into  their  family.  God's  will  be 
done  !  God  knows  better  than  we  do,  what  is  good  for  us. 
There  is  nothing  to  be  done,  Peter  Andreitch ;  may  you  be 
happy " 

"  It  shall  not  be  ! "  I  exclaimed,  seizing  hold  of  her  hand. 
"You  love  me;  I  am  prepared  for  everything.  Let  us  go 
and  throw  ourselves  at  the  feet  of  your  parents ;  they  are 
simple  people,  not  hard-hearted  and  proud.  They  will 
give  us  their  blessing ;  we  will  get  married  .  .  .  and  then, 
with  time,  I  feel  quite  certain  that  we  shall  succeed  in 
bringing  my  father  round ;  my  mother  will  be  on  our  side ; 
he  will  forgive  me " 

"  No,  Peter  Andreitch,"  replied  Masha,  **  I  will  not  marry 
you  without  the  blessing  of  your  parents.  Without  their 
blessing  you  will  not  be  happy.  Let  us  submit  to  the  will 
of  God.     If  you  meet  with  somebody  else,  if  you  love 

another God  be  with  you,  Peter  Andreitch,  I  will  pray 

for  you  both " 

Then  she  burst  into  tears  and  left  me.  I  wanted  to 
follow  her  into  her  room,  but  I  felt  that  I  was  not  in  a  con- 
dition to  control  myself,  and  I  returned  home  to  my  quarters. 

I  was  sitting  down,  absorbed  in  profound  thoughtfulness, 
when  Savelitch  interrupted  my  meditations. 

"  Here,  sir,"  said  he,  handing  me  a  written  sheet  of 
paper :  '*  see  whether  I  am  a  spy  upon  my  master,  and 
whether  I  try  to  cause  trouble  between  father  and  son." 

I  took  the  paper  out  of  his  hand.  It  was  the  reply  of 
Savelitch  to  the  letter  which  he  had  received.  Here  it  is, 
word  for  word : 

**  Lord  Andrei  Petrovitch,  our  gracious  father, 

"  I  have  received  your  gracious  letter,  in  which  you 
are  pleased  to  be  angry  with  me,  your  slave,  telling  me  that 

56       poushkin's  prose  tales. 

I  ought  to  be  ashamed  of  myself  for  not  fulfilling  my 
master's  orders.  I  am  not  an  old  hound,  but  your  faithful 
servant,  and  I  do  obey  my  master's  orders,  and  I  have 
always  served  you  zealously  till  my  grey  hairs.  I  did  not 
write  anything  to  you  about  Peter  Andreitch's  wound,  in 
order  that  I  might  not  alarm  you  without  a  reason,  and  now 
I  hear  that  our  lady,  our  mother,  Avdotia  Vassilevna,  is  ill 
from  fright,  and  I  am  going  to  pray  to  God  to  restore  her  to 
health.  Peter  Andreitch  was  wounded  under  the  right 
shoulder,  in  the  breast,  exactly  under  a  rib,  to  the  depth  of 
nearly  three  inches,  and  he  was  put  to  bed  in  the  Com- 
mandant's house,  whither  we  carried  him  from  the  bank  of 
the  river,  and  he  was  healed  by  Stepan  Paramonoff,  the 
barber  of  this  place,  and  now,  thank  God,  Peter  Andreitch 
is  well,  and  I  have  nothing  but  good  to  write  about  him. 
His  superior  officers,  I  hear,  are  satisfied  with  him ;  and 
Vassilissa  Egorovna  treats  him  as  if  he  were  her  own  son. 
And  because  such  an  accident  occurred  to  him,  the  young 
man  ought  not  to  be  reproached  :  the  horse  has  four  legs,  and 
yet  he  stumbles.  And  if  it  please  you  to  write  that  I  should 
go  and  feed  the  pigs,  let  your  lordly  will  be  done.  Herewith 
I  humbly  bow  down  before  you. 

"  Your  faithful  slave, 

"Arkhip  Savelitch.** 

I  could  not  help  smiling  several  times  while  reading  the 
good  old  man's  letter.  I  was  not  in  a  condition  to  reply 
to  my  father,  and  Savehtch's  letter  seemed  to  me  quite 
sufficient  to  calm  my  mother's  fears. 

From  this  time  my  situation  changed.  Maria  Ivanovna 
scarcely  ever  spoke  to  me,  nay,  she  even  tried  to  avoid  me. 
The  Commandant's  house  began  to  become  insupportable 
to  me.  Little  by  little  I  accustomed  myself  to  remaining 
at  home  alone.     Vassilissa  Egorovna  reproached  me  for  it 


at  first,  but  perceiving  my  obstinacy,  she  left  me  in  peace. 
Ivan  Kouzmitch  I  only  saw  when  the  service  demanded  it ; 
with  Shvabrin  I  rarely  came  into  contact,  and  then  against 
my  will,  all  the  more  so  because  I  observed  in  him  a  secret 
enmity  towards  me,  which  confirmed  me  in  my  suspicions. 
My  life  became  unbearable  to  me.  I  sank  into  a  profound 
melancholy,  which  was  enhanced  by  loneliness  and  inaction. 
My  love  grew  more  intense  in  my  solitude,  and  became 
more  and  more  tormenting  to  me.  I  lost  all  pleasure  in 
reading  and  literature.  I  grew  dejected.  I  was  afraid  that 
I  should  either  go  out  of  my  mind  or  that  I  should  give  way 
to  dissipation.  But  an  unexpected  event,  which  exercised 
an  important  influence  upon  my  after  life,  suddenly  occurred 
to  give  to  my  soul  a  powerful  and  salutary  shock. 




BEFORE  I  proceed  to  write  a  description  of  the  strange 
events  of  which  I  was  a  witness,  I  must  say  a  few 
words  concerning  the  condition  of  the  government  of  Oren- 
burg towards  the  end  of  the  year  1773. 

This  rich  and  extensive  government  was  inhabited  by 
hordeg  of  half-savage  people,  who  had  only  recently  ac- 
knowledged the  sovereignty  of  the  Russian  Czars.  Their 
continual  revolts,  their  disinclination  to  a  civilized  life  and 
an  existence  regulated  by  laws,  their  fickleness  and  cruelty, 
demanded  on  the  part  of  the  government  a  constant  vigi- 
lance in  order  to  keep  them  in  subjection.  Fortresses  had 
been  erected  in  convenient  places,  and  were  garrisoned  for 
the  most  part  by  Cossacks,  who  had  formerly  held  posses- 
sion of  the  shores  of  the  Yaik.  But  these  Yaikian  Cossacks, 
whose  duty  it  was  to  preserve  peace  and  to  watch  over  the 
security  of  this  district,  had  themselves  for  some  time  past 
become  very  troublesome  and  dangerous  to  the  government. 
In  the  year  1772  an  insurrection  broke  out  in  their  principal 
city.  The  causes  of  it  were  the  severe  measures  taken  by 
General  Traubenberg  to  bring  the  army  into  a  state  of  obedi- 
ence. The  result  was  the  barbarous  murder  of  Traubenberg, 
the  selection  of  new  leaders,  and  finally  the  suppression  of 
the  revolt  by  grapeshot  and  cruel  punishments. 

This  happened  a  little  while  before  my  arrival  at  the 
fortress   of  Bailogorsk.     All   was   now   quiet,   or   at  least 


appeared  so ;  but  the  authorities  believed  too  easily  in  the 
pretended  repentance  of  the  cunning  rebels,  who  nursed 
their  hatred  in  secret  and  only  waited  for  a  favourable 
opportunity  to  recommence  the  struggle. 

I  now  return  to  my  narrative. 

One  evening  (it  was  in  the  beginning  of  October  in  the 
year  1773)  I  was  sitting  indoors  alone,  listening  to  the 
moaning  of  the  autumn  wind,  and  gazing  out  of  the  window 
at  the  clouds,  as  they  sailed  rapidly  over  the  face  of  the 
moon.  A  message  was  brought  to  me  to  wait  upon  the 
Commandant.  I  immediately  repaired  to  his  quarters.  I 
there  found  Shvabrin,  Ivan  Ignatitch,  and  the  Cossack 
orderly.  Neither  Vassilissa  Egorovna  nor  Maria  Ivanovi^a 
was  in  the  room.  The  Commandant  greeted  me  with  a 
pre-occupied  air.  He  closed  the  door,  made  us  all  sit-down 
except  the  orderly,  who  remained  standing  near  the*door, 
drew  a  paper  out  of  his  pocket,  and  said  to  us  : — 

"  Gentlemen,  we  have  here  important  news  !  Hear  what 
the  general  writes." 

Then  he  put  on  his  spectacles  and  read  as  follows : 

"  To  the  Commandant  of  the  Fortress  of  Bailogorsk, 
Captain  Mironoff.     {Confidential.) 

"I  hereby  inform  you  that  the  fugitive  and  schismatic 
Don  Cossack,  Emelian  Pougatcheff,  after  having  been 
guilty  of  the  unpardonable  insolence  of  assuming  the  name 
of  the  deceased  Emperor  Peter  HI.,^  has  collected  a  band 
of  evil -disposed  persons,  has  excited  disturbances  in  the 

^  Husband  of  the  Empress  Catherine  W.  The  latter,  whom  the 
Emperor  had  threatened  to  divorce,  having  won  over  to  her  side  a  con- 
siderable portion  of  the  army,  had  compelled  her  unpopular  consort  to 
sign  an  act  of  abdication  in  1762.  Having  been  removed  as  a  prisoner 
to  Ropscha,  it  was  shortly  afterwards  announced  that  he  had  died  of 
colic,  though  the  truth  was,  he  had  been  strangled  to  death  by  Alexis 
Orloff,  one  of  Catherine's  numerous  admirers. 


settlements  along  the  banks  of  the  Yaik,  and  has  already 
taken  and  destroyed  several  fortresses,  pillaging  and  murder- 
ing on  every  side.  Therefore,  on  the  receipt  of  this  letter, 
you,  Captain,  will  at  once  take  the  necessary  measures  to 
repel  the  above-mentioned  villain  and  impostor,  and,  if 
possible,  to  completely  annihilate  him,  if  he  should  turn  his 
arms  against  the  fortress  entrusted  to  your  care." 

"  Take  the  necessary  measures,"  said  the  Commandant, 
taking  off  his  spectacles  and  folding  up  the  letter ;  "  you  see 
that  it  is  very  easy  to  say  that.  The  villain  is  evidently 
strong  in  numbers,  whereas  we  have  but  130  men  altogether, 
not  counting  the  Cossacks,  upon  whom  we  can  place  very 
little  dependence — without  intending  any  reproach  to  you, 
Maximitch."  The  orderly  smiled.  "  Still,  there  is  no  help 
for  it,  but  to  do  the  best  we  can,  gentlemen.  Let  us  be  on 
our  guard  and  establish  night  patrols;  in  case  of  attack, 
shut  the  gates  and  assemble  the  soldiers.  You,  Maximitch, 
keep  a  strict  eye  on  your  Cossacks.  See  that  the  cannon 
be  examined  and  thoroughly  cleaned.  Above  all  things, 
keep  what  I  have  said  a  secret,  so  that  nobody  in  the  fortress 
may  know  anything  before  the  time." 

After  giving  these  orders,  Ivan  Kouzmitch  dismissed  us. 
I  walked  away  with  Shvabrin,  reflecting  upon  what  we  had 

"  How  do  you  think  that  this  will  end  ?  "  I  asked  him. 

"God  knows,"  he  replied;  *'we  shall  see.  I  do  not  see 
anything  to  be  alarmed  about  at  present.     If,  however " 

Then  he  began  to  reflect  and  to  whistle  abstractedly  a 
French  air. 

In  spite  of  all  our  precautions,  the  news  of  the  appearance 
of  Pougatcheff  soon  spread  through  the  fortress.  Although 
Ivan  Kouzmitch  entertained  the  greatest  respect  for  his  wife, 
he  would  not  for  anything  in  the  world  have  confided  to  her 

THE  captain's  DAUGHTER.  6l 

a  secret  entrusted  to  him  in  connection  with  the  service. 
After  having  received  the  general's  letter,  he  contrived  in  a 
tolerably  dexterous  manner  to  get  Vassilissa  Egorovna  out  of 
the  way,  telling  her  that  Father  Gerasim  had  received  some 
extraordinary  news  from  Orenburg,  which  he  kept  a  great 
secret.  Vassilissa  Egorovna  immediately  wished  to  go  and 
pay  a  visit  to  the  pope's  wife  and,  by  the  advice  of  Ivan 
Kouzmitch,  she  took  Masha  with  her,  lest  she  should  feel 
dull  by  herself. 

Ivan  Kouzmitch,  being  thus  left  sole  master  of  the  situa- 
tion, immediately  sent  for  us,  having  locked  Palashka  in  the 
pantry,  so  that  she  might  not  be  able  to  overhear  what  we 
had  to  say. 

Vassilissa  Egorovna  returned  home,  without  having  suc- 
ceeded in  getting  anything  out  of  the  pope's  wife,  and  she 
learned  that,  during  her  absence,  a  council  of  war  had  been 
held  in  Ivan  Kouzmitch's  house,  and  that  Palashka  had 
been  under  lock  and  key.  She  suspected  that  she  had  been 
duped  by  her  husband,  and  she  began  to  assail  him  with 
questions.  But  Ivan  Kouzmitch  was  prepared  for  the  attack. 
He  was  not  in  the  least  perturbed,  and  boldly  made  answer 
to  his  inquisitive  consort : 

"  Hark  you,  mother  dear,  our  women  hereabouts  have 
taken  a  notion  into  their  heads  to  heat  their  ovens  with 
straw,  and  as  some  misfortune  might  be  the  outcome  of  it, 
I  gave  strict  orders  that  the  women  should  not  heat  their 
ovens  with  straw,  but  should  burn  brushwood  and  branches 
of  trees  instead." 

"  But  why  did  you  lock  up  Palashka,  then  ? "  asked  his 
wife.  "Why  was  the  poor  girl  compelled  to  sit  in  the 
kitchen  till  we  returned  ?  " 

Ivan  Kouzmitch  was  not  prepared  for  such  a  question ; 
he  became  confused,  and  stammered  out  something  very 
incoherent.     Vassilissa  Egorovna  perceived  her  husband's 

62       poushkin's  prose  tales. 

perfidy,  but,  knowing  that  she  would  get  nothing  out  of  him 
just  then,  she  abstained  from  asking  any  further  questions 
and  turned  the  conversation  to  the  subject  of  the  pickled 
cucumbers,  which  Akoulina  Pamphilovna  knew  how  to 
prepare  in  such  an  excellent  manner.  But  all  that  night 
Vassilissa  Egorovna  could  not  sleep  a  wink,  nor  could  she 
understand  what  it  was  that  was  in  her  husband's  head  that 
she  was  not  permitted  to  know. 

The  next  day,  as  she  was  returning  home  from  mass,  she 
saw  Ivan  Ignatitch,  who  was  busily  engaged  in  clearing 
the  cannon  of  pieces  of  rag,  small  stones,  bits  of  bone,  and 
rubbish  of  every  sort,  which  had  been  deposited  there  by 
the  little  boys  of  the  place.  m 

"What  mean  these  warlike  preparations?**  thought  the 
Commandant's  wife.  "  Can  it  be  that  they  fear  an  attack  on 
the  part  of  the  Kirghises?  But  is  it  possible  that  Ivan 
Kouzmitch  could  conceal  such  a  trifle  from  me  ?  " 

She  called  Ivan  Ignatitch  to  her  with  the  firm  determina- 
tion of  learning  from  him  the  secret  which  tormented  her 
woman's  curiosity. 

Vassillissa  Egorovna  began  by  making  a  few  observations 
to  him  about  household  matters,  like  a  judge  who  commences 
an  examination  with  questions  foreign  to  the  matter  in  hand, 
in  order  to  lull  the  suspicions  of  the  person  accused.  Then, 
after  a  silence  of  a  few  moments,  she  heaved  a  deep  sigh, 
and  said,  shaking  her  head  : 

"  Oh,  Lord  God  !.  What  news  !  What  will  be  the  end  of 
all  this?" 

"  Well,  well,  mother  ! "  replied  Ivan  Ignatitch ;  "  God 
is  merciful;  we  have  soldiers  enough,  plenty  of  powder, 
and  I  have  cleaned  the  cannon.  Perhaps  we  shall  be 
able  to  offer  a  successful  resistance  to  this  Pougatcheff ;  if 
God  will  only  not  abandon  us,  we  shall  be  safe  enough 


"  And  what  sort  of  a  man  is  this  Pougatcheff  ?  "  asked  the 
Commandant's  wife. 

Then  Ivan  Ignatitch  perceived  that  he  had  said  more 
than  he  ought  to  have  done,  and  he  bit  his  tongue.  But  it 
was  now  too  late.  VassiUssa  Egorovna  compelled  him  to 
inform  her  of  everything,  having  given  him  her  word  that 
she  would  not  mention  the  matter  to  anybody. 
I  Vassilissa  Egorovna  kept  her  promise  and  said  not  a  word 
|to  anybody,  except  to  the  pope's  wife,  and  to  her  only  because 
ler  cow  was  still  feeding  upon  the  steppe,  and  might  be 
captured  by  the  brigands. 

Soon  everybody  was  talking  about  Pougatcheff.  The 
eports  concerning  him  varied  very  much.  The  Comman- 
dant sent  his  orderly  to  glean  as  much  information  as  pos- 
sible about  him  in  all  the  neighbouring  villages  and  fortresses. 
The  orderly  returned  after  an  absence  of  two  days,  and  re- 
ported that,  at  about  sixty  versts  from  the  fortress,  he  had  seen 
L  large  number  of  fires  upon  the  steppe,  and  that  he  had  heard 
rem  the  Bashkirs  that  an  immense  force  was  advancing. 
He  could  not  say  anything  more  positive,  because  he  had 
beared  to  venture  further. 

An  unusual  agitation  now  began  to  be  observed  among 
he  Cossacks  of  the  fortress ;  in  all  the  streets  they  con- 
egated  in  small  groups,  quietly  conversing  among  them- 
elves,  and  dispersing  whenever  they  caught  sight  of  a 
dragoon  or  any  other  soldier  belonging  to  the  garrison. 
They  were  closely  watched  by  spies.  Youlai,  a  converted 
Calmuck,  made  an  important  communication  to  the  com- 
mandant. The  orderly's  report,  according  to  Youlai,  was  a 
false  one ;  on  his  return  the  treacherous  Cossack  announced 
to  his  companions  that  he  had  been  among  the  rebels,  and 
had  been  presented  to  their  leader,  who  had  given  him  his 
hand  and  had  conversed  with  him  for  a  long  time.  The 
Commandant  immediately  placed  the  orderly  under  arrest, 

64  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

and  appointed  Youlai  in  his  place.  This  change  was  the 
cause  of  manifest  dissatisfaction  among  the  Cossacks.  They 
murmured  loudly,  and  Ivan  Ignatitch,  who  executed  the 
Commandant's  instructions,  with  his  own  ears  heard  them 

*' Just  wait  a  little  while,  you  garrison  rat !" 

The  Commandant  had  intended  interrogating  the  prisoner 
that  very  same  day,  but  the  orderly  had  made  his  escape, 
no  doubt  with  the  assistance  of  his  partisans. 

A  fresh  event  served  to  increase  the  Commandant's  un- 
easiness. A  Bashkir,  carrying  seditious  letters,  was  seized. 
On  this  occasion  the  Commandant  again  decided  upon 
assembling  his  officers,  and  therefore  he  wished  once  more  to 
get  Vassilissa  Egorovna  out  of  the  way  under  some  plausible 
pretext.  But  as  Ivan  Kouzmitch  was  a  most  upright  and 
sincere  man,  he  could  find  no  other  method  than  that 
employed  on  the  previous  occasion. 

**  Listen,  Vassilissa  Egorovna,"  he  said  to  her,  coughing 
to  conceal  his  embarrassment:  **they  say  that  Father 
Gerasim  has  received " 

"That's  enough,  Ivan  Kouzmitch,"  said  his  wife,  inter- 
rupting him:  "you  wish  to  assemble  a  council  of  war  to 
talk  about  Emelian  Pougatcheff  without  my  being  present ; 
but  you  shall  not  deceive  me  this  time." 

Ivan  Kouzmitch  opened  his  eyes. 

"  Well,  little  mother,"  he  said,  "  if  you  know  everything, 
you  may  remain ;  we  shall  speak  in  your  presence." 

"Very  well,  my  little  father,"  replied  she;  "you  should 
not  try  to  be  so  cunning ;  send  for  the  officers." 

We  assembled  again.  Ivan  Kouzmitch,  in  the  presence 
of  his  wife,  read  to  us  Pougatcheff" 's  proclamation,  drawn 
up  probably  by  some  half-educated  Cossack.  The  robber 
announced  therein  his  intention  of  immediately  marching 
upon  our  fortress ;  he  invited  the  Cossacks  and  soldiers  to 

THE  captain's   DAUGHTER.  6$ 

join  him,  and  advised  the  superior  officers  not  to  offer  any 
resistance,  threatening  them  with  death  in  the  event  of  their 
doing  so.  The  proclamation  was  couched  in  coarse  but 
vigorous  language,  and  could  not  but  produce  a  powerful 
impression  upon  the  minds  of  simple  people. 

"  What  a  rascal ! "  exclaimed  the  Commandant's  wife ; 
"  that  he  should  propose  such  a  thing  to  us.  To  go  out  to 
meet  him  and  lay  our  flags  at  his  feet !  Ah  !  the  son  of  a 
dog !  He  does  not  know  then  that  we  have  been  forty 
years  in  the  service,  and  that,  thanks  to  God,  we  have  seen 
a  good  deal  during  that  time.  Is  it  possible  that  there  are 
commandants  who  would  be  cowardly  enough  to  yield  to  a 
robber  like  him  ?  " 

"  There  ought  not  to  be,"  replied  Ivan  Kouzmitch ;  "  but 
it  is  reported  that  the  scoundrel  has  already  taken  several 

"  He  seems  to  have  great  power,"  observed  Shvabrin. 

"  We  shall  soon  find  out  the  real  extent  of  his  power," 
said  the  Commandant.  *'  Vassilissa  Egorovna,  give  me  the 
key  of  the  loft.  Ivan  Ignatitch,  bring  hither  the  Bashkir, 
and  tell  Youlai  to  fetch  a  whip." 

**  Wait  a  moment,  Ivan  Kouzmitch,"  said  his  wife,  rising 
from  her  seat.  ''  Let  me  take  Masha  somewhere  out  of  the 
house ;  otherwise  she  will  hear  the  cries  and  will  feel 
frightened.  And  I  myself,  to  tell  the  truth,  am  no  lover  of 
inquisitions.     So  good-bye  for  the  present." 

Torture,  in  former  times,  was  so  rooted  in  our  judicial 
proceedings,  that  the  benevolent  ukase '  ordering  its  aboli- 
tion remained  for  a  long  time  a  dead  letter.  It  was  thought 
that  the  confession  of  the  criminal  was  indispensable  for 
his  full  conviction — an  idea  not  only  unreasonable,  but  even 
contrary  to  common  sense  from  a  jurisprudential  point  of 
view ;  for  if  the  denial  of  the  accused  person  be  not  accepted 
'  Torture  was  abolished  in  1768  by  an  edict  of  Catherine  II. 


as  proof  of  his  innocence,  the  confession  that  has  been 
wrung  from  him  ought  still  less  to  be  accepted  as  a  proof 
of  his  guilt.  Even  in  our  days  I  sometimes  hear  old  judges 
regretting  the  abolition  of  the  barbarous  custom.  But  in 
those  days  nobody  had  any  doubt  about  the  necessity  of 
torture,  neither  the  judges  nor  even  the  accused  persons 
themselves.  Therefore  it  was  that  the  Commandant's  order 
did  not  astonish  or  alarm  any  of  us.  Ivan  Ignatitch  went 
to  fetch  the  Bashkir,  who  was  confined  in  the  loft,  under 
lock  and  key,  and  a  few  minutes  afterwards  he  was  led 
prisoner  into  the  ante-room.  The  Commandant  ordered 
the  captive  to  be  brought  before  him. 

The  Bashkir  stepped  with  difficulty  across  the  threshold 
(for  his  feet  were  in  fetters)  and,  taking  off  his  high  cap, 
remained  standing  near  the  door.  I  glanced  at  him  and 
shuddered.  Never  shall  I  forget  that  man.  He  appeared 
to  be  about  seventy  years  of  age,  and  had  neither  nose  nor 
ears.  His  head  was  shaved,  and  instead  of  a  beard  he  had 
a  few  grey  hairs  upon  his  chin ;  he  was  of  short  stature,  thin 
and  bent ;  but  his  small  eyes  still  flashed  fire. 

"  Ah,  ah  ! "  said  the  Commandant,  recognizing  by  these 
dreadful  marks  one  of  the  rebels  punished  in  the  year  1741, 
"I  see  you  are  an  old  wolf;  you  have  already  been  caught 
in  our  traps.  It  is  not  the  first  time  that  you  have  rebelled, 
since  your  head  is  planed  so  smoothly.  Come  nearer; 
speak,  who  sent  you  here  ?  " 

The  old  Bashkir  remained  silent  and  gazed  at  the  Com- 
mandant with  an  air  of  complete  stolidity. 

**Why  do  you  not  answer?"  continued  Ivan  Kouzmitch. 
"  Don't  you  understand  Russian  ?  Youlai,  ask  him  in  your 
language,  who  sent  him  to  our  fortress." 

Youlai  repeated  the  Commandant's  question  in  the  Tartar 
language.  But  the  Bashkir  looked  at  him  with  the  same 
expression  and  answered  not  a  word. 

THE  captain's  DAUGHTER.  6^ 

"  By  heaven  !  "  exclaimed  the  Commandant,  "  you  shall 
answer  me.  My  lads  !  take  off  that  ridiculous  striped  gown 
of  his,  and  tickle  his  back.  Youlai,  see  that  it  is  carried 
out  properly." 

Two  soldiers  began  to  undress  the  Bashkir.  The  face  of 
the  unhappy  man  assumed  an  expression  of  uneasiness. 
He  looked  round  on  every  side,  like  a  poor  little  animal 
that  has  been  captured  by  children.  But  when  one  of  the 
soldiers  seized  his  hands  to  twine  them  round  his  neck, 
and  raised  the  old  man  upon  his  shoulders,  and  Youlai 
grasped  the  whip  and  began  to  flourish  it  round  his  head, 
then  the  Bashkir  uttered  a  feeble  groan,  and,  raising  his 
head,  opened  his  mouth,  in  which,  instead  of  a  tongue, 
moved  a  short  stump. 

When  I  reflect  that  this  happened  during  my  lifetime, 
and  that  I  now  live  under  the  mild  government  of  the 
Emperor  Alexander,  I  cannot  but  feel  astonished  at  the 
rapid  progress  of  civilization,  and  the  diflusion  of  humane 
ideas.  Young  man  !  if  these  lines  of  mine  should  fall  into 
your  hands,  remember  that  those  changes  which  proceed 
from  an  amelioration  of  manners  and  customs  are  much 
better  and  more  lasting  than  those  which  are  the  outcome 
of  acts  of  violence. 

We  were  all  horror-stricken. 

"Well,"  said  the  Commandant,  "it  is  evident  that  we 
shall  get  nothing  out  of  him.  Youlai,  lead  the  Bashkir 
back  to  the  loft ;  and  let  us,  gentlemen,  have  a  little  further 
talk  about  the  matter." 

We  were  yet  considering  our  position,  when  Vassilissa 
Egorovna  suddenly  rushed  into  the  room,  panting  for 
breath,  and  beside  herself  with  excitement. 

*'What  has  happened  to  you?"  asked  the  astonished 

"  I  have  to  inform  you  of  a  great  misfortune ! "  replied 



Vassilissa  Egorovna.  ''Nijniosern  was  taken  this  morning. 
Father  Gerasim's  servant  has  just  returned  from  there.  He 
saw  how  they  took  it.  The  Commandant  and  all  the  officers 
are  hanged,  and  all  the  soldiers  are  taken  prisoners.  In  a 
little  while  the  villains  will  be  here." 

This  unexpected  intelligence  produced  a  deep  impression 
upon  me.  The  Commandant  of  the  fortress  of  Nijniosern, 
a  quiet  and  modest  young  man,  was  an  acquaintance  of 
mine  ;  two  months  before  he  had  visited  our  fortress  when 
on  his  way  from  Orenburg  along  with  his  young  wife,  and 
had  stopped  for  a  little  while  in  the  house  of  Ivan  Kouz- 
mitch-.  Nijniosern  was  about  twenty-five  versts  from  our 
fortress.  We  might  therefore  expect  to  be  attacked  by 
Pougatcheff  at  any  moment.  The  fate  in  store  for  Maria 
Ivanovna  presented  itself  vividly  to  my  imagination,  and 
my  heart  sank  within  me. 

"  Listen,  Ivan  Kouzmitch,"  said  I  to  the  Commandant ; 
*'  our  duty  is  to  defend  the  fortress  to  the  last  gasp ;  there 
is  no  question  about  that.  But  we  must  think  about  the 
safety  of  the  women.  Send  them  on  to  Orenburg,  if  the 
road  be  still  open,  or  to  some  safer  and  more  distant 
fortress  where  these  villains  will  not  be  able  to  make  their 

Ivan  Kouzmitch  turned  round  to  his  wife  and  said  to 
her : 

"  Listen,  mother ;  would  it  not  be  just  as  well  if  we  sent 
you  away  to  some  place  farther  off  until  we  have  settled 
matters  with  these  rebels  ?  " 

"  What  nonsense ! "  said  the  Commandant's  wife.  "  Where 
is  there  a  fortress  that  would  be  safe  from  bullets  ?  Why  is 
Bailogorsk  not  safe  ?  Thank  God,  we  have  lived  in  it  for 
two-and-twenty  years !  We  have  seen  Bashkirs  and  Kirghises ; 
perhaps  we  shall  also  escape  the  clutches  of  Pougatcheff." 

"  Well,  mother,"  replied  Ivan  Kouzmitch,  ''  stay  if  you 

THE  captain's  DAUGHTER.  69 

like,  if  you  have  such  confidence  in  our  fortress.  But  what 
shall  we  do  with  Masha?  All  well  and  good  if  we  offer  a 
successful  resistance,  or  can  hold  out  till  we  obtain  help; 
but  what  if  the  villains  should  take  the  fortress  ?  " 

"Why,  then " 

But  at  this  juncture  Vassilissa  Egorovna  began  to  stammer 
and  then  remained  silent,  evidently  agitated  by  deep 

*'  No,  Vassilissa  Egorovna,"  continued  the  Commandant, 
observing  that  his  words  had  produced  an  impression  upon 
her,  perhaps  for  the  first  time  in  his  life,  "  Masha  must  not 
remain  here.  Let  us  send  her  to  Orenburg,  to  her  god- 
mother ;  there  are  plenty  of  soldiers  and  cannon  there,  and 
the  walls  are  of  stone.  And  I  would  advise  you  to  go  there 
with  her ;  for  although  you  are  an  old  woman,  think  what 
might  happen  to  you  if  the  fortress  should  be  taken  by 

"  Very  well,"  replied  the  Commandant's  wife ;  "  let  it  be 
so  :  we  will  send  Masha  away.  As  for  me,  you  need  not 
trouble  yourself  about  asking  me  to  go ;  I  will  remain  here. 
Nothing  shall  make  me  part  from  you  in  my  old  age  to  go 
and  seek  a  lonely  grave  in  a  strange  country.  Together  we 
have  lived,  together  we  will  die." 

**Well,  you  are  right,"  said  the  Commandant;  *' but  let 
us  not  delay  any  longer.  Go  and  get  Masha  ready  for  the 
journey.  She  must  set  out  at  daybreak  to-morrow,  and  we 
shall  let  her  have  an  escort,  although  we  have  not  too  many 
men  in  the  fortress  to  be  able  to  spare  any  of  them.  But 
where  is  Masha  ?  " 

"Along  with  Akoulina  Pamphilovna,"  replied  the  Com- 
mandant's wife.  "  She  fainted  away  when  she  heard  of  the 
capture  of  Nijniosern;  I  am  afraid  that  she  will  be  ill. 
Lord  God  of  heaven,  what  have  we  lived  to  see  ! " 

Vassilissa  Egorovna  went  to  prepare  for  her  daughter's 


departure.  The  consultation  with  the  Commandant  was 
then  continued ;  but  I  no  longer  took  any  part  in  it,  nor 
did  I  listen  to  anything  that  was  said.  Maria  Ivanovna 
appeared  at  supper,  her  face  pale  and  her  eyes  red  with 
weeping.  We  supped  in  silence,  and  rose  from  the  table 
sooner  than  usual ;  then  taking  leave  of  the  family,  we  all 
returned  to  our  respective  quarters.  But  I  intentionally 
forgot  my  sword,  and  went  back  for  it :  I  had  a  presenti- 
ment that  I  should  find  Maria  alone.  True  enough  I  met 
her  in  the  doorway,  and  she  handed  me  my  sword. 

"  Farewell,  Peter  Andreitch  ! "  she  said  to  me,  with  tears 
in  her  eyes;  "they  are  going  to  send  me  to  Orenburg. 
May  you  be  well  and  happy.  God  may  be  pleased  to 
prdain  that  we  should  see  each  other  again ;  if  not " 

Here  she  burst  out  sobbing.     I  clasped  her  in  my  arms. 

"  Farewell,  my  angel ! "  said  I.  **  Farewell,  my  darling,  my 
heart's  desire  !  Whatever  may  happen  to  me,  rest  assured 
that  my  last  thought  and  last  prayer  shall  be  for  you." 

Masha  still  continued  to  weep,  resting  her  head  upon 
my  breast.  I  kissed  her  fervently,  and  hastily  quitted  the 




THAT  night  I  neither  slept  nor  undressed.  It  was  my 
intention  to  proceed  early  in  the  morning  to  the  gate 
of  the  fortress  through  which  Maria  Ivanovna  would  have 
to  pass,  so  that  I  might  take  leave  of  her  for  the  last  time. 
I  felt  within  myself  a  great  change ;  the  agitation  of  my  soul 
was  far  less  burdensome  to  me  than  the  melancholy  into 
which  I  had  lately  fallen.  With  the  grief  of  separation  there 
was  mingled  a  vague,  but  sweet  hope,  an  impatient  expecta- 
tion of  danger,  a  feeling  of  noble  ambition. 

The  night  passed  away  imperceptibly.  I  was  just  about 
to  leave  the  house  when  my  door  opened,  and  the  corporal 
entered  the  room  with  the  information  that  our  Cossacks 
had  quitted  the  fortress  during  the  night,  taking  Youlai  by 
force  along  with  them,  and  that  strange  people  were  riding 
round  the  fortress.  The  thought  that  Maria  Ivanovna 
would  not  be  able  to  get  away  filled  me  with  alarm.  I 
hurriedly  gave  some  orders  to  the  corporal,  and  then 
hastened  at  once  to  the  Commandant's  quarters. 

Day  had  already  begun  to  dawn.  I  was  hurrying  along 
the  street  when  I  heard  someone  call  out  my  name.  I 

"  Where  are  you  going  ?  "  said  Ivan  Ignatitch,  overtaking 
me.  "  Ivan  Kouzmitch  is  on  the  rampart,  and  he  has  sent 
me  for  you.     Pougatch  ^  has  come." 

A  pun  on  the  name  of  the  rebel  chief.     Literally,  "  a  scarecrow." 


"  Has  Maria  Ivanovna  left  the  fortress?"  I  asked,  with  a 
trembling  heart. 

"  She  was  unable  to  do  so,"  replied  Ivan  Ignatitch ;  "  the 
road  to  Orenburg  is  cut  off  and  the  fortress  is  surrounded. 
It  is  a  bad  look-out,  Peter  Andreitch." 

We  made  our  way  to  the  rampart,  an  elevation  formed  by 
nature  and  fortified  by  a  palisade.  The  inhabitants  of  the 
fortress  were  already  assembled  there.  The  garrison  stood 
drawn  up  under  arms.  The  cannon  had  been  dragged 
thither  the  day  before.  The  Commandant  was  walking  up 
and  down  in  front  of  his  little  troop.  The  approach  of 
danger  had  inspired  the  old  warrior  with  unusual  vigour. 
On  the  steppe,  not  very  far  from  the  fortress,  about  a  score 
of  men  could  be  seen  riding  about  on  horseback.  They 
seemed  to  be  Cossacks,  but  among  them  were  some  Bashkirs, 
who  were  easily  recognized  by  their  hairy  caps,  and  by  their 

The  Commandant  walked  along  the  ranks  of  his  little 
army,  saying  to  the  soldiers  : 

"Now,  my  children,  let  us  stand  firm  to-day  for  our 
mother  the  Empress,,  and  let  us  show  the  whole  world  that 
we  are  brave  people,  and  true  to  our  oath." 

The  soldiers  responded  to  his  appeal  with  loud  shouts. 
Shvabrin  stood  near  me  and  attentively  observed  the  enemy. 
The  people  riding  about  on  the  steppe,  perceiving  some 
movement  in  the  fortress,  gathered  together  in  a  group  and 
began  conversing  among  themselves.  The  Commandant 
ordered  Ivan  Ignatitch  to  point  the  cannon  at  them,  and 
then  applied  the  match  to  it  with  his  own  hand.  The  ball 
whistled  over  their  heads,  without  doing  any  harm.  The 
horsemen  dispersed,  galloping  out  of  sight  almost  imme- 
diately, and  the  steppe  was  deserted. 

At  that  moment  Vassilissa  Egorovna  appeared  upon  the 
rampart,  followed  by  Masha,  who  was  unwilling  to  leave  her. 


"Well,"  said  the  Commandant's  wife,  "how  goes  the 
battle  ?    Where  is  the  enemy  ?  " 

"The  enemy  is  not  far  off,"  replied  Ivan  Kouzmitch. 
"  God  grant  that  all  may  go  well !  .  .  .  Well,  Masha,  do 
you  feel  afraid  ?  " 

**  No,  papa,"  replied  Maria  Ivanovna  j  "  I  feel  more  afraid 
being  at  home  alone." 

Then  she  looked  at  me  and  made  an  effort  to  smile.  I 
involuntarily  grasped  the  hilt  of  my  sword,  remembering 
that  I  had  received  it  from  her  hand  the  evening  before — 
as  if  for  the  protection  of  my  beloved.  My  heart  throbbed. 
I  imagined  myself  her  champion.  I  longed  to  prove  that  I 
was  worthy  of  her  confidence,  and  waited  impatiently  for 
the  decisive  moment. 

All  of  a  sudden  some  fresh  bodies  of  mounted  men  made 
their  appearance  from  behind  an  elevation  situated  about  half 
a  mile  from  the  fortress,  and  soon  the  steppe  was  covered 
with  crowds  of  persons  armed  with  lances  and  quivers. 
Among  them,  upon  a  white  horse,  was  a  man  in  a  red  caftan^ 
holding  a  naked  sword  in  his  hand ;  this  was  Pougatcheff 
himself.  He  stopped  his  horse,  and  the  others  gathered  round 
him,  and,  in  obedience  to  his  order  as  it  seemed,  four  men 
detachtd  themselves  from  the  crowd  and  galloped  at  full 
speed  towards  the  fortress.  We  recognized  among  them  some 
of  our  traitors.  One  of  them  held  a  sheet  of  paper  above  his 
head,  while  another  bore  upon  the  top  of  his  lance  the  head 
of  Youlai,  which  he  threw  over  the  palisade  among  us.  The 
head  of  the  poor  Calmuck  fell  at  the  feet  of  the  Commandant. 

The  traitors  cried  out : 

"  Do  not  fire  !  Come  out  and  pay  homage  to  the  Czar. 
The  Czar  is  here  ! " 

''Look  out  for  yourselves!"  cried  Ivan  Kouzmitch, 
"  Ready,  lads— fire  !  " 

^  A  kind  of  overcoat 

74  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

Our  soldiers  fired  a  volley.  The  Cossack  who  held  the 
letter  staggered  and  fell  from  his  horse ;  the  others  galloped 
back.  I  turned  and  looked  at  Maria  Ivanovna.  Terror- 
stricken  by  the  sight  of  the  bloodstained  head  of  Youlai, 
and  stunned  by  the  din  of  the  discharge,  she  seemed  per- 
fectly paralyzed.  The  Commandant  called  the  corporal  and 
ordered  him  to  fetch  the  paper  from  the  hands  of  the  fallen 
Cossack.  The  corporal  went  out  into  the  plain,  and  re- 
turned leading  by  the  bridle  the  horse  of  the  dead  man. 
He  handed  the  letter  to  the  Commandant.  Ivan  Kouzmitch 
read  it  to  himself  and  then  tore  it  into  pieces.  In  the  mean- 
time we  could  see  the  rebels  preparing  for  the  attack.  Soon 
the  bullets  began  to  whistle  about  our  ears,  and  several 
arrows  fell  close  to  us,  sticking  in  the  ground  and  in  the 

"  Vassilissa  Egorovna  ! "  said  the  Commandant ;  "women 
have  no  business  here.  Take  Masha  away;  you  see  that 
the  girl  is  more  dead  than  alive." 

Vassilissa  Egorovna,  tamed  by  the  bullets,  cast  a  glance 
at  the  steppe,  where  a  great  commotion  was  observable,  and 
then  turned  round  to  her  husband  and  said  to  him  : 

"Ivan  Kouzmitch,  life  and  death  are  in  the  hands  of 
God ;  bless  Masha.     Masha,  come  near  to  your  father." 

Masha,  pale  and  trembling,  approached  Ivan  Kouzmitch, 
knelt  down  before  him,  and  bowed  herself  to  the  ground. 
The  old  Commandant  made  the  sign  of  the  cross  over  her 
three  times,  then  raised  her  up,  and  kissing  her,  said  in  a 
voice  of  deep  emotion  : 

"  Well,  Masha,  be  happy.  Pray  to  God ;  He  will  never 
forsake  you.  If  you  find  a  good  man,  may  God  give  you 
love  and  counsel.  Live  together  as  your  mother  and  I  have 
lived.  And  now,  farewell,  Masha.  Vassilissa  Egorovna, 
take  her  away  quickly." 

Masha  threw  her  arms  round  his  neck  and  sobbed  aloud. 

THE  captain's  DAUGHTER.  75 

"  Let  us  kiss  each  other  also,"  said  the  Commandant's 
wife,  weeping,  "  Farewell,  my  Ivan  Kouzmitch.  Forgive 
me  if  I  have  ever  vexed  you  in  any  way  ! " 

*'  Farewell,  farewell,  little  mother  ! "  said  the  Comman- 
dant, embracing  the  partner  of  his  joys  and  sorrows  for  so 
many  years.  "  Come  now,  that  is  enough  !  Make  haste 
home ;  and  if  you  can  manage  it,  put  a  sarafan  ^  on  Masha." 

The  Commandant's  wife  walked  away  along  with  her 
daughter.  I  followed  Maria  Ivanovna  with  my  eyes ;  she 
turned  round  and  nodded  her  head  to  me. 

Ivan  Kouzmitch  then  returned  to  us,  and  bestowed  all  his 
attention  upon  the  enemy.  The  rebels  gathered  round  their 
leader  and  suddenly  dismounted  from  their  horses. 

"  Stand  firm  now,"  said  the  Commandant,  "  the  assault  is 
going  to  begin." 

At  that  moment  frightful  yells  and  cries  rose  in  the  air ; 
the  rebels  dashed  forward  towards  the  fortress.  Our  cannon 
was  loaded  with  grape-shot. 

The  Commandant  allowed  them  to  come  very  close,  and 
then  suddenly  fired  again.  The  grape  fell  into  the  very 
midst  of  the  crowd.  The  rebels  recoiled  and  then  dispersed 
on  every  side.  Their  leader  alone  remained  facing  us.  He 
waved  his  sword  and  seemed  to  be  vehemently  exhorting 
his  followers  to  return  to  the  attack.  The  shrieks  and 
j^ells,  which  had  ceased  for  a  minute,  were  immediately 

"  Now,  lads  ! "  said  the  Commandant ;  "  open  the  gate, 
jeat  the  drum,  and  let  us  make  a  sally.  Forward,  and 
follow  me  ! " 

The  Commandant,  Ivan  Ignatitch,  and  I  were  outside 

^  A  wide  open  robe  without  sleeves,  beneath  which  is  worn  a  full 
ong-sleeved  gown.  It  is  usually  made  of  velvet,  richly  embroidered, 
he  embroidery  varying  according  to  the  rank  of  the  wearer.  It  is  the 
nistom  among  the  Russians  to  bury  the  dead  in  their  richest  dress. 


the  wall  of  the  fortress  in  a  twinkling ;  but  the  timid  garrison 
did  not  move. 

"Why  do  you  hold  back,  my  children?"  cried  Ivan 
Kouzmitch.     "  If  we  are  to  die,  let  us  die  doing  our  duty ! " 

At  that  moment  the  rebels  rushed  upon  us  and  forced  an 
entrance  into  the  fortress.  The  drum  ceased  to  beat ;  the 
garrison  flung  down  their  arms.  I  was  thrown  to  the  ground, 
but  I  rose  up  and  entered  the  fortress  along  with  the  rebels. 
The  Commandant,  wounded  in  the  head,  was  surrounded  by 
a  crowd  of  the  robbers,  who  demanded  of  him  the  keys.  I 
was  about  to  rush  to  his  assistance,  but  several  powerful 
Cossacks  seized  hold  of  me  and  bound  me  with  their  sashes, 
exclaiming : 

"Just  wait  a  little  while  and  see  what  you  will  get,  you 
traitors  to  the  Czar  ! " 

They  dragged  us  through  the  streets;  the  inhabitants 
came  out  of  their  houses  with  bread  and  salt ;  ^  the  bells 
began  to  ring.  Suddenly  among  the  crowd  a  cry  was  raised 
that  the  Czar  was  in  the  square  waiting  for  the  prisoners  to 
take  their  oath  of  allegiance  to  him.  The  throng  pressed 
towards  the  market-place,  and  our  captors  dragged  us  thither 

Pougatcheff  was  seated  in  an  armchair  on  the  steps  of 
the  Commandant's  house.  He  was  attired  in  an  elegant 
Cossack  caftan^  ornamented  with  lace.  A  tall  cap  of  sable, 
with  gold  tassels,  came  right  down  to  his  flashing  eyes.  His 
face  seemed  familiar  to  me.  He  was  surrounded  by  the 
Cossack  chiefs.  Father  Gerasim,  pale  and  trembling,  stood 
upon  the  steps  with  a  cross  in  his  hands,  and  seemed  to  be 
silently  imploring  mercy  for  the  victims  brought  forward. 
In  the  square  a  gallows  was  being  hastily  erected.  As  we 
approached,  the  Bashkirs  drove  back  the  crowd,  and  we 

^  The  customary  offering  to  a  Russian  emperor  on  entering  a  town. 
The  act  is  indicative  of  submission. 


were  brought  before  Pougatcheff.  The  bells  had  ceased 
ringing,  and  a  deep  silence  reigned  around. 

"Which  is  the  Commandant?"  asked  the  pretender. 

Our  orderly  stepped  forward  out  of  the  crowd  and  pointed 
to  Ivan  Kouzmitch. 

Pougatcheff  regarded  the  old  man  with  a  menacing  look, 
and  said  to  him  : 

"  How  dared  you  oppose  me — your  emperor  ?  " 

The  Commandant,  weakened  by  his  wound,  summoned 
ill  his  remaining  strength  and  replied  in  a  firm  voice : 

"  You  are  not  my  emperor ;  you  are  a  robber  and  a  pre- 
ender,  that  is  what  you  are  ! " 

Pougatcheff  frowned  savagely  and  waved  his  white  hand- 
kerchief. Several  Cossacks  seized  the  old  captain  and 
iragged  him  towards  the  gallows.  Astride  upon  the  cross- 
)eam  could  be  seen  the  mutilated  Bashkir  whom  we  had 
jxamined  the  day  before.  He  held  in  his  hand  a  rope,  and  a 
ainute  afterwards  I  saw  poor  Ivan  Kouzmitch  suspended  in 
he  air.  Then  Ivan  Ignatitch  was  brought  before  Pougatcheff. 

"  Take  the  oath  of  fealty,"  said  Pougatcheff  to  him,  "  to 

iie  Emperor  Peter  Fedorovitch  !  "  • 
"  You  are  not  our  emperor,"  replied  Ivan  Ignatitch,  re- 
eating  the  words  of  his  captain ;  "  you,  uncle,  are  a  robber 
nd  a  pretender !  " 
Pougatcheff  again  waved  his  handkerchief,  and  the  good 
1  eutenant  was  soon  hanging  near  his  old  chief. 
It  was  now  my  turn.     I  looked  defiantly  at  Pougatcheff, 
repared  to  repeat  the  answer  of  my  brave  comrades,  when, 
)  my  inexpressible  astonishment,  I  perceived,  among  the 
ibels,  Shvabrin,  his  hair  cut  close,  and  wearing  a  Cossack 
iftan.    He  stepped  up  to  Pougatcheff  and  whispered  a  few 
rords  in  his  ear. 
"  Let  him  be  hanged  1 "  said  Pougatcheff,  without  even 
oking  at  me. 

78  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

The  rope  was  thrown  round  my  neck.  I  began  to  repea 
a  prayer  to  myself,  expressing  sincere  repentance  for  all  m 
sins,  and  imploring  God  to  save  all  those  who  were  dear  t 
me.     I  was  led  beneath  the  gibbet. 

"  Don't  be  afraid,  don't  be  afraid,"  said  my  executioners 
wishing  sincerely,  perhaps,  to  encourage  me. 

Suddenly  I  heard  a  cry  : 

"  Stop,  villains  !  hold  !  " 

The  executioners  paused.  I  looked  round.  SaveHtcl 
was  on  his  knees  at  the  feet  of  PougatchefF. 

"  Oh,  my  father ! "  said  my  poor  servant,  "  why  shoul 
you  wish  for  the  death  of  this  noble  child  ?  Let  him  go 
you  will  get  a  good  ransom  for  him ;  if  you  want  to  mak 
an  example  of  somebody  for  the  sake  of  terrifying  others 
order  me  to  be  hanged — an  old  man  ! " 

PougatchefF  gave  a  sign,  and  I  was  immediately  unboun* 
and  set  at  liberty. 

"  Our  father  pardons  you,"  said  the  rebels  who  had  charg 
of  me. 

I  cannot  say  that  at  that  moment  I  rejoiced  at  my  de 
liverance,  neither  will  I  say  that  I  was  sorry  for  it.  M 
feelings  were  too  confused.  I  was  again  led  before  th 
usurper  and  compelled  to  kneel  down  in  front  of  him 
PougatchefF  stretched  out  to  me  his  sinewy  hand. 

"  Kiss  his  hand,  kiss  his  hand ! "  exclaimed  voices  oi 
every  side  of  me. 

But  I  would  have  preferred  the  most  cruel  punishment  t( 
such  contemptible  degradation. 

"  My  little  father,  Peter  Andreitch,"  whispered  Savelitch 
standing  behind  me  and  nudging  my  elbow,  "do  not  b 
obstinate.  What  will  it  cost  you  ?  Spit  ^  and  kiss  th' 
brig pshaw  !  kiss  his  hand  ! " 

^  A  sign  of  contempt  among  Russians  and  Orientals. 

THE  captain's   DAUGHTER.  79 

I  did  not  move.     Pougatcheff  withdrew  his  hand,  saying 
with  a  smile  ; 

"His   lordship  seems   bewildered  with  joy.      Lift  him 

I  was  raised  to  my  feet  and  released.    I  then  stood  by  to 
observe  the  continuation  of  the  terrible  comedy. 

The  inhabitants  began  to  take  the  oath  of  allegiance. 
They  approached  one  after  another,  kissed  the  crucifix  and 
then  bowed  to  the  usurper.  Then  came  the  turn  of  the 
soldiers  of  the  garrison.  The  regimental  barber,  armed 
with  his  blunt  scissors,  cut  off  their  hair.  Then,  after 
baking  their  heads,  they  went  and  kissed  the  hand  of 
Pougatcheff,  who  declared  them  pardoned,  and  then  en- 
rolled them  among  his  followers. 

All  thi?  lasted  for  about  three  hours.  At  length  Pougat- 
heff  rose  up  from  his  armchair]  and  descended  the  steps, 
ccompanied  by  his  chiefs.  A  white  horse,  richly  capari- 
oned,  was  led  forward  to  him.  Two  Cossacks  took  hold  of 
him  under  the  arms  and  assisted  him  into  the  saddle.  He 
informed  Father  Gerasim  that  he  would  dine  with  him.  At 
t  moment  a  woman's  scream  was  heard.  Some  of  the 
brigands  were  dragging  Vassilissa  Egorovna,  with  her  hair 
dishevelled  and  her  clothes  half  torn  off  her  body,  towards 
the  steps.  One  of  them  had  already  arrayed  himself  in  her 
^own.  The  others  were  carrying  off  beds,  chests,  tea- 
services,  linen,  and  all  kinds  of  furniture. 

'  My  fathers  ! "  cried  the  poor  old  woman,  "  have  pity 
ipon  me  and  let  me  go.  Kind  fathers  !  take  me  to  Ivan 

Suddenly  she  caught  sight  of  the  gibbet  and  recognized 
ler  husband. 

*' Villains  ! "  she  cried,  almost  beside  herself;  "  what  have 
^ou  done  to  him  ?  My  Ivan  Kouzmitch  !  light  of  my  life  ! 
Drave  soldier  heart !   Neither  Prussian  bayonets  nor  Turkish 

8o  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

bullets  have  touched  you ;  not  in  honourable  fight  have  yoi 
yielded  up  your  life ;  you  received  your  death  at  the  handi 
of  a  runaway  galley-slave  ! " 

**Make  the  old  witch  hold  her  tongue!"  said  Pougat- 

A  young  Cossack  struck  her  on  the  head  with  his  sabre, 
and  she  fell  dead  at  the  foot  of  the  steps.  Pougatcheff  rode 
off;  the  crowd  followed  him. 





THE  square  was  deserted.     I  remained  standing  in  tht 
same  place,  unable  to  collect  my  thoughts,  bewildered 
as  I  was  by  so  many  terrible  emotions. 

Uncertainty  with  respect  to  the  fate  of  Maria  Ivanovna 
tortured  me  more  than  anything  else.  Where  was  she? 
What  had  become  of  her?  Had  she  contrived  to  hide 
herself?    Was  her  place  of  refuge  safe  ? 

Filled  with  these  distracting  thoughts,  I  made  my  way  to 
he  Commandant's  house.  It  was  empty.  The  chairs, 
ables,  and  chests  were  broken,  the  crockery  dashed  to 
pieces,  and  everything  in  confusion.  I  ran  up  the  little 
staircase  rvhich  led  to  Maria's  room,  and  which  I  now 
entered  for  the  first  time  in  my  life.  Her  bed  had  been 
ransacked  by  thfe  robbers ;  the  wardrobe  was  broken  open 
md  plundered ;  the  small  lamp  was  still  burning  before  the 
mpty  image  case.^  There  was  also  left  a  small  mirror 
|ianging  on  the  partition  wall.  .  .  .  Where  was  the  mistress  of 
his  humble,  virginal  cell  ?  A  terrible  thought  passed  through 
Tiy  mind  ]  I  imagined  her  in  the  hands  of  the  robbers.  .  .  . 
S/iy  heart  sank  within  me.  ...  I  wept  bitterly,  most  bitterly, 
nd  called  aloud  the  name  of  my  beloved.  ...  At  that 
noment  I  heard  a  slight  noise,  and  from  behind  the  ward- 
obe  appeared  Palasha,  pale  and  trembling. 

^  The  small  wardrobe,  with  glass  doors,  in  which  the  sacred  images 
e  kept,  and  which  forms  a  domestic  altar. 

82       poushkin's  prose  tales. 

"  Ah,  Peter  Andreitch ! "  said  she,  clasping  her  hands, 
"  What  a  day  !  what  horrors  ! " 

"And  Maria  Ivanovna?"  I  asked  impatiently.  **What 
has  become  of  Maria  Ivanovna  ?  " 

"The  young  lady  is  alive,"  replied  Palasha;  "she  is 
hiding  in  the  house  of  Akoulina  Pamphilovna." 

"  With  the  priest's  wife  ! "  I  exclaimed  in  alarm.  "  My 
God  !  Pougatcheff  is  there  ! " 

I  dashed  out  of  the  room,  and  in  the  twinkling  of  an  eye 
I  was  in  the  street  and  hurrying  off  to  the  clergyman's  house, 
without  devoting  the  slightest  attention  to  anything  else. 
Shouts,  songs,  and  bursts  of  laughter  resounded  from  within. 
.  .  .  Pougatcheff  was  feasting  with  his  companions.  Palasha 
had  followed  me  thither.  I  sent  her  to  call  out  Akoulina 
Pamphilovna  secretly.  In  about  a  minute  the  priest's  wife 
came  out  to  me  in  the  vestibule,  with  an  empty  bottle  in 
her  hand. 

"  In  Heaven's  name  !  where  is  Maria  Ivanovna  ?  "  I  asked 
with  indescribable  agitation. 

"  The  dear  little  dove  is  lying  down  on  my  bed  behind 
the  partition,"  replied  the  priest's  wife.  "But  a  terrible 
misfortune  had  very  nearly  happened,  Peter  Andreitch ! 
Thanks  be  to  God,  however,  everything  has  passed  off 
happily.  The  villain  had  just  sat  down  to  dine,  when  the 
poor  child  uttered  a  moan  !  ...  I  felt  as  if  I  should  have 
died.  He  heard  it.  *  Who  is  that  moaning  in  your  room, 
old  woman?' — I  bowed  myself  to  the  ground,  and  replied : 
*  My  niece,  Czar ;  she  has  been  lying  ill  for  about  a  fort- 
night.'— *  And  is  your  niece  young  ? ' — *  She  is  young,  Czar.' 
— *  Show  me  your  niece  then,  old  woman.'  My  heart  sank 
within  me,  but  there  was  no  help  for  it.  *  Very  well,  Czar ; 
but  the  girl  will  not  have  the  strength  to  get  up  and  come 
before  your  Grace.' — *  Never  mind,  old  woman,  I  will  go 
and  see  her  myself.'     And  the  villain   went  behind  the 

THE  captain's  DAUGHTER.  83 

partition  and,  will  you  believe  it  ? — actually  drew  aside  the 
curtain  and  looked  at  her  with  his  hawk-like  eyes — but 
nothing  came  of  it,— God  helped  us  !  Will  you  believe  it? 
I  and  the  father  were  prepared  for  a  martyr's  death.  For- 
tunately, my  little  dove  did  not  recognize  him.  Lord  God  ! 
what  have  we  lived  to  see  !  Poor  Ivan  Kouzmitch !  who 
would  havQ  thought  it  !  .  .  .  And  Vassilissa  Egorovna  ? 
And  Ivan  Ignatitch?  What  was  he  killed  for?  And  how 
came  they  to  spare  you  ?  And  what  do  you  think  of  Shva- 
brin  ?  He  has  had  his  hair  cut,  and  is  now  feasting  inside 
along  with  them  !  He  is  a  very  sharp  fellow,  there  is  no 
gainsaying  that !  When  I  spoke  of  my  sick  niece — will  you 
believe  it  ? — he  looked  at  me  as  if  he  would  have  stabbed 
me ;  but  he  did  not  betray  me.  I  am  thankful  to  him  for 
that,  anyway." 

At  that  moment  I  heard  the  drunken  shouts  of  the  guests 
and  the  voice  of  Father  Gerasim.  The  guests  were  de- 
manding wine,  and  the  host  was  calling  for  his  wife. 

"  Go  back  home,  Peter  Andreitch,"  said  the  priest's  wife, 
somewhat  alarmed ;  "  I  cannot  stop  to  speak  to  you  now ; 
I  must  go  and  wait  upon  the  drunken  scoundrels.  It  might 
be  unfortunate  for  you  if  you  fell  into  their  hands.  Fare- 
well, Peter  Andreitch.  What  is  to  be,  will  be;  perhaps 
God  will  not  abandon  us  ! " 

The  priest's  wife  went  back  inside  the  house.  Somewhat 
more  easy  in  mind,  I  returned  to  my  quarters.  As  I  crossed 
the  square  I  saw  several  Bashkirs  assembled  round  the 
gibbets,  engaged  in  dragging  off  the  boots  of  those  who  had 
been  hanged.  With  difficulty  I  repressed  my  indignation, 
feeling  convinced  that  if  I  gave  expression  to  it,  it  would 
have  been  perfectly  useless.  The  brigands  invaded  every 
part  of  the  fortress,  and  plundered  the  officers'  houses.  On 
every  side  resounded  the  shouts  of  the  drunken  mutineers. 
I  reached  home.     Savelitch  met  me  on  the  threshold, 



" Thank  God  !  "  he  exclaimed  when  he  saw  me ;  "I  was 
beginning  to  think  that  the  villains  had  seized  you  again. 
Ah  !  my  little  father,  Peter  Andreitch,  will  you  believe  it, 
the  robbers  have  plundered  us  of  everything — clothes,  linen, 
furniture,  plate — they  have  not  left  us  a  single  thing.  But 
what  does  it  matter  ?  Thank  God  !  they  have  spared  your 
life.     But,  my  lord,  did  you  recognize  their  leader  ?  " 

**  No,  I  did  not  recognize  him.     Who  is  he  then  ?  " 

"  How,  my  little  father !  Have  you  forgotten  that 
drunken  scoundrel  who  swindled  you  out  of  the  pelisse  at 
the  inn?  A  brand  new  hareskin  pelisse j  and  the  beast 
burst  the  seams  in  putting  it  on." 

I  was  astounded.  In  truth,  the  resemblance  of  Pougat- 
cheff  to  my  guide  was  very  striking.  I  felt  convinced  that 
Pougatcheff  and  he  were  one  and  the  same  person,  and 
then  I  understood  why  he  had  spared  my  life.  I  could  not 
but  feel  surprised  at  the  strange  connection  of  events — a 
child's  pelisse,  given  to  a  roving  vagrant,  had  saved  me 
from  the  hangman's  noose,  and  a  drunkard,  who  had  passed 
his  Hfe  in  wandering  from  one  inn  to  another,  was  now 
besieging  fortresses  and  shaking  the  empire  ! 

"Will  you  not  eat  something?"  asked  Savelitch,  still 
faithful  to  his  old  habits.  "  There  is  nothing  in  the  house ; 
but  I  will  go  and  search,  and  get  something  ready  for 

When  I  was  left  alone,  I  began  to  reflect.  What  was  I 
to  do  ?  To  remain  in  the  fortress  now  that  it  was  in  the 
hands  of  the  villain,  or  to  join  his  band,  was  unworthy  of  an 
officer.  Duty  demanded  that  I  should  go  wherever  my 
services  might  still  be  of  use  to  my  fatherland  in  the 
present  critical  position  of  its  affairs.  .  .  .  But  love  strongly 
urged  me  to  remain  near  Maria  Ivanovna  and  be  her  pro- 
tector and  defender.  Although  I  foresaw  a  speedy  and 
inevitable  change  in  the  course  of  affairs,  yet  I  could  not 


help  trembling  when  I  thought  of  the  danger  of  her  situa- 

My  reflections  were  interrupted  by  the  arrival  of  one  of 
the  Cossacks,  who  came  to  inform  me  that  "  the  great  Czar 
required  me  to  appear  before  him." 

"  Where  is  he  ?  "  I  asked,  preparing  to  obey. 

"In  the  Commandant's  house,"  replied  the  Cossack. 
"  After  dinner  our  father  took  a  bath,  but  at  present  he  is 
resting.  Ah  !  your  Excellency,  it  is  very  evident  that  he  is 
a  distinguished  person ;  at  dinner  he  deigned  to  eat  two 
roasted  sucking  pigs,  then  he  entered  the  bath,  where  the 
water  was  so  hot  that  even  Tarass  Kourotchkin  could  not 
bear  it ;  he  had  to  give  the  besom  to  Tomka  Bikbaieff,  and 
only  came  to  himself  through  having  cold  water  poured 
over  him.  There  is  no  denying  it;  all  his  ways  are 
majestic.  .  .  .  And  I  was  told  that  in  the  bath  he  showed 
his  Czar's  signs  upon  his  breast :  on  one  side  a  two-headed 
eagle  as  large  as  a  five-copeck  piece,  and  on  the  other  his 
own  likeness." 

I  did  not  consider  it  necessary  to  contradict  the  Cossack's 
statement,  and  I  accompanied  him  to  the  Commandant's 
house,  trying  to  imagine  beforehand  what  kind  of  a  recep- 
tion I  should  meet  with  from  PougatchefF,  and  endeavouring 
to  guess  how  it  would  end.  The  reader  will  easily  under- 
stand that  I  did  not  by  any  means  feel  easy  within  myself. 

It  was  beginning  to  get  dark  when  I  reached  the  Com- 
mandant's house.  The  gibbet,  with  its  victims,  loomed 
black  and  terrible  before  me.  The  body  of  the  poor  Com- 
mandant's wife  still  lay  at  the  bottom  of  the  steps,  near 
which  two  Cossacks  stood  on  guard.  The  Cossack  who 
accompanied  me  went  in  to  announce  me,  and,  returning 
almost  immediately,  conducted  me  into  the  room  where, 
the  evening  before,  I  had  taken  a  tender  farewell  of  Maria 

S6  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

An  unusual  spectacle  presented  itself  to  my  gaze.  At  s 
lable,  covered  with  a  cloth  and  loaded  with  bottles  anc 
glasses,  sat  Pougatcheff  and  some  half-a-score  of  Cossaci 
chiefs,  in  coloured  caps  and  shirts,  heated  with  wine,  with 
flushed  faces  and  flashing  eyes.  I  did  not  see  among  then: 
Shvabrin  and  his  fellow  traitor,  the  orderly. 

"  Ah  !  your  Excellency  ! "  said  Pougatchefl",  seeing  me, 
"  Welcome ;  honour  to  you  and  a  place  at  our  banquet." 

The  guests  moved  closer  together.  I  sat  down  silently 
at  the  end  of  the  table.  My  neighbour,  a  young  Cossack, 
tall  and  handsome,  poured  out  for  me  a  glass  of  wine, 
which,  however,  I  did  not  touch.  I  began  to  observe  the 
company  with  curiosity.  Pougatcheflf  occupied  the  seat  ol 
honour,  his  elbows  resting  on  the  table,  and  his  broad  fist 
propped  under  his  black  beard.  His  features,  regular  and 
sufficiently  agreeable,  had  nothing  fierce  about  them.  He 
frequently  turned  to  speak  to  a  man  of  about  fifty  years  ol 
age,  addressing  him  sometimes  as  Count,  sometimes  as 
Timofeitch,  sometimes  as  uncle.  All  those  present  treated 
each  other  as  comrades,  and  did  not  show  any  particular 
respect  for  their  leader.  The  conversation  was  upon  the 
subject  of  the  assault  of  the  morning,  of  the  success  of 
the  revolt,  and  of  their  future  operations.  Each  one 
boasted  of  what  he  had  done,  expressed  his  opinion,  and 
fearlessly  contradicted  Pougatcheff".  And  in  this  strange 
council  of  war  it  was  resolved  to  march  upon  Orenburg ;  a 
bold  movement,  and  which  was  to  be  very  nearly  crowned 
with  success !  The  march  was  fixed  for  the  following 

"Now,  lads,"  said  Pougatcheff,  "before  we  retire  to 
rest,  let  us  have  my  favourite  song.  Choumakoff, 

My  neighbour  sang,  in  a  shrill  voice,  the  following 
melancholy  peasants'  song,  and  all  joined  in  the  chorus  : 


**  Stir  not,  mother,  green  forest  of  oak, 
Disturb  me  not  in  my  meditation  ; 
For  to-morrow  before  the  court  I  must  go, 
Before  the  stern  judge,  before  the  Czar  himself. 
The  great  Lord  Czar  will  begin  to  question  me : 

*  Tell  me,  young  man,  tell  me,  thou  peasant's  son, 

With  whom  have  you  stolen,  with  whom  have  you  robbed  ? 
Did  you  have  many  companions  with  you  ?  * 

*  I  will  tell  you,  true-believing  Czar, 
The  whole  truth  I  will  confess  to  you. 
My  companions  were  four  in  number  : 
My  first  companion  was  the  dark  night, 
My  second  companion  was  a  steel  knife, 
My  third  companion  was  my  good  horse. 
My  fourth  companion  was  my  taut  bow, 
My  messengers  were  my  tempered  arrows. ' 
Then  speaks  my  hope,  the  true-believing  Czar : 

*  Well  done  !  my  lad,  brave  peasant's  son  ; 
You  knew  how  to  steal,  you  knew  how  to  reply  : 
Therefore,  my  lad,  I  will  make  you  a  present 
Of  a  very  high  structure  in  the  midst  of  a  field — 
Of  two  upright  posts  with  a  cross-beam  above.' " 

It  is  impossible  to  describe  the  effect  produced  upon  me 
by  this  popular  gallows  song,  trolled  out  by  men  destined  for 
the  gallows.  Their  ferocious  countenances,  their  sonorous 
voices,  and  the  melancholy  expression  which  they  imparted 
to  the  words,  which  in  themselves  were  not  very  expressive, 
filled  me  with  a  sort  of  poetical  terror. 

The  guests  drank  another  glass,  then  rose  from  the  table 
and  took  leave  of  Pougatcheff. 

I  wanted  to  follow  them,  but  Pougatcheff  said  to  me ; 

"  Sit  down  ;   I  want  to  speak  to  you." 

We  remained  face  to  face. 

For  some  moments  we  both  continued  silent.  Pougat- 
cheff looked  at  me  fixedly,  every  now  and  then  winking  his 
left  eye  with  a  curious  expression  of  craftiness  and  drollery. 
At  last  he  burst  out  laughing,  and  with  such  unfeigned 


merriment,  that  I,  too,  looking  at  him,  began  to  laugh, 
without  knowing  why. 

**  Well,  your  lordship,"  he  said  to  me,  **  confess  now,  you 
were  in  a  terrible  fright  when  my  fellows  put  the  rope  round 
your  neck.  I  do  not  believe  that  the  sky  appeared  bigger 
than  a  sheepskin  to  you  just  then  .  .  .  You  would  have 
been  strung  up  to  the  crossbeam  if  it  had  not  been  for  your 
servant.  I  knew  the  old  fellow  at  once.  Well,  would  your 
lordship  have  thought  that  the  man  who  conducted  you  to 
the  inn,  was  the  great  Czar  himself  ?  " 

Here  he  assumed  an  air  of  mystery  and  importance. 

"You  have  been  guilty  of  a  serious  offence  against  me," 
continued  he,  "but  I  pardoned  you  on  account  of  your 
virtue,  and  because  you  rendered  me  a  service  when  I  was 
compelled  to  hide  myself  from  my  enemies.  But  you  will 
see  something  very  different  presently  !  You  will  see  how  I 
will  reward  you  when  I  enter  into  possession  of  my  king- 
dom !    Will  you  promise  to  serve  me  with  zeal  ?  " 

The  rascal's  question,  and  his  insolence,  appeared  to  me 
so  amusing,  that  I  could  not  help  smiUng. 

"Why  do  you  smile?"  he  asked,  frowning.  "Perhaps 
you  do  not  believe  that  I  am  the  great  Czar  ?  Is  that  so  ? — 
answer  plainly." 

I  became  confused.  To  acknowledge  a  vagabond  as 
emperor  was  quite  out  of  the  question ;  to  do  so  seemed  to 
me  unpardonable  cowardice.  To  tell  him  to  his  face  that 
he  was  an  impostor  was  to  expose  myself  to  certain  death, 
and  that  which  I  was  prepared  to  say  beneath  the  gibbet 
before  the  eyes  of  the  crowd,  in  the  first  outburst  of  my 
indignation,  appeared  to  me  now  a  useless  boast.  I  hesi- 
tated. In  gloomy  silence  Pougatcheff  awaited  my  reply. 
At  last  (and  even  now  I  remember  that  moment  with  self- 
satisfaction)  the  sentiment  of  duty  triumphed  over  my 
human  weakness.     I  replied  to  Pougatcheff : 


"  Listen,  I  will  tell  you  the  whole  truth.  Judge  yourself: 
can  I  acknowledge  you  as  emperor?  You,  as  a  sensible 
man,  would  know  that  it  would  not  be  saying  what  I  really 

"  Who  am  I,  then,  in  your  opinion  ?  " 

"God  only  knows;  but  whoever  you  may  be,  you  are 
playing  a  dangerous  game." 

Pougatcheff  threw  a  rapid  glance  at  me. 

"  Then  you  do  not  believe,"  said  he,  "  that  I  am  the 
Emperor  Peter  ?  Well,  be  it  so.  But  is  not  success  the 
reward  of  the  bold  ?  Did  not  Grishka  Otrepieff  ^  reign  in 
former  days?  Think  of  me  what  you  please,  but  do  not 
leave  me.  What  does  it  matter  to  you  one  way  or  the 
other  ?  Whoever  is  pope  is  father.  Serve  me  faithfully  and 
truly,  and  I  will  make  you  a  field-marshal  and  a  prince. 
What  do  you  say  ?  " 

"  No,"  I  replied  with  firmness.  "  I  am  by  birth  a  noble- 
man ;  I  have  taken  the  oath  of  fealty  to  the  empress :  I 
cannot  serve  you.  If  you  really  wish  me  well,  send  me 
back  to  Orenburg." 

Pougatcheff  reflected. 

"  But  if  I  let  you  go,"  said  he,  "  will  you  at  least  promise 
not  to  serve  against  me  ?  " 

"  How  can  I  promise  you  that?"  I  replied.  "You  your- 
self know  that  it  does  not  depend  upon  my  own  will.     If  I 

*  The  first  false  Demetrius,  the  Perkin  Warbeck  of  Russia.  The 
real  Demetrius  was  the  son  of  Ivan  the  Terrible  (Ivan  IV.),  and  is 
generally  believed  to  have  been  assassinated  by  order  of  Boris  Godunoff, 
a  nobleman  of  Tartar  origin,  who  was  afterwards  elected  Czar. 
OtrepiefTs  story  was  that  his  physician  had  pretended  to  comply  with 
the  orders  of  Boris,  but  had  substituted  the  son  of  a  serf  for  him. 
Being  supported  in  his  claims  by  the  Poles,  the  pretender  succeeded  in 
gaining  the  throne,  but  his  partiality  for  everything  Polish  aroused  the 
national  jealousy  of  the  Russians,  and  he  was  slain  by  the  infuriated 
populace  of  Moscow,  after  a  brief  reign  of  one  year. 


am  ordered  to  march  against  you,  I  must  go — there  is  no 
help  for  it.  You  yourself  are  now  a  chief;  you  demand 
obedience  from  your  followers.  How  would  it  seem,  if  I 
refused  to  serve  when  my  services  were  needed  ?  My  life  is 
in  your  hands  :  if  you  set  me  free,  I  will  thank  you ;  if  you 
put  me  to  death,  God  will  be  your  judge ;  but  I  have  told 
you  the  truth." 

My  frankness  struck  Pougatcheff. 

*'Be  it  so,"  said  he,  slapping  me  upon  the  shoulder. 
"One  should  either  punish  completely  or  pardon  com- 
pletely. Go  then  where  you  Hke,  and  do  what  you  Hke. 
Come  to-morrow  to  say  good-bye  to  me,  and  now  go  to 
bed.     I  feel  very  drowsy  myself." 

I  left  Pougatcheff  and  went  out  into  the  street.  The 
night  was  calm  and  cold.  The  moon  and  stars  were  shining 
brightly,  lighting  up  the  square  and  the  gibbet.  In  the 
fortress  all  was  dark  and  still.  Only  in  the  tavern  was  a 
light  visible,  where  could  be  heard  the  noise  of  late  revellers. 
I  glanced  at  the  pope's  house.  The  shutters  and  doors 
were  closed.     Everything  seemed  quiet  within. 

I  made  my  way  to  my  own  quarters  and  found  Savelitch 
grieving  about  my  absence.  The  news  of  my  being  set  at 
liberty  filled  him  with  unutterable  joy. 

"  Thanks  be  to  Thee,  Almighty  God  ! "  said  he,  making 
the  sign  of  the  cross.  "At  daybreak  to-morrow  we  will 
leave  the  fortress  and  go  wherever  God  will  direct  us.  I 
have  prepared  something  for  you ;  eat  it,  my  little  father, 
and  then  rest  yourself  till  the  morning,  as  if  you  were  in  the 
bosom  of  Christ." 

I  followed  his  advice  and,  having  eaten  with  a  good 
appetite,  I  fell  asleep  upon  the  bare  floor,  worn  out  both  in 
body  and  mind. 




EARLY  next  morning  I  was  awakened  by  the  drum. 
I  went  to  the  place  of  assembly.  There  Pougatcheff  s 
followers  were  already  drawn  up  round  the  gibbet,  where 
the  victims  of  the  day  before  were  still  hanging.  The 
Cossacks  were  on  horseback,  the  soldiers  were  under  arms. 
Flags  were  waving.  Several  cannon,  among  which  I  re- 
cognized our  own,  were  mounted  on  travelling  gun- 
carriages.  All  the  inhabitants  were  gathered  together  there, 
awaiting  the  usurper.  Before  the  steps  of  the  Comman- 
dant's house  a  Cossack  stood  holding  by  the  bridle  a 
magnificent  white  horse  of  Kirghis  breed.  I  looked  about 
for  the  corpse  of  the  Commandant's  wife.  It  had  been 
pushed  a  little  on  one  side  and  covered  with  a  mat.  At 
length  Pougatcheff  came  out  of  the  house.  The  crowd 
took  off  their  caps.  Pougatcheff  stood  still  upon  the  steps 
and  greeted  his  followers.  One  of  the  chiefs  gave  him  a 
bag  filled  with  copper  coins,  and  he  began  to  scatter  them 
by  handfuls.  The  crowd  commenced  scrambling  for  them 
with  eager  cries,  and  there  was  no  lack  of  pushing  and 
scuffling  in  the  attempts  to  get  possession  of  them.  Pougat- 
cheff's  chief  followers  assembled  round  him.  Among  them 
stood  Shvabrin.  Our  eyes  met ;  in  mine  he  could  read  con- 
tempt, and  he  turned  away  with  an  expression  of  genuine 
hate  and  affected  scorn.  Pougatcheff,  seeing  me  among 
the  crowd,  nodded  his  head  to  me  and  called  me  to  him. 

92       poushkin's  prose  tales. 

"  Listen,"  said  he  to  me,  "  set  off  at  once  for  Orenburg 
and  tell  the  governor  and  all  the  generals  from  me,  that 
they  may  expect  me  in  about  a  week.  Advise  them  to 
receive  me  with  filial  love  and  submission ;  otherwise  they 
shall  not  escape  a  terrible  punishment.  A  pleasant  journey, 
your  lordship  ! " 

Then  turning  round  to  the  crowd  and  pointing  to  Shva- 
brin,  he  said : 

"  There,  children,  is  your  new  Commandant.  Obey  him 
in  everything ;  he  is  answerable  to  me  for  you  and  for  the 

I  heard  these  words  with  alarm :  Shvabrin  being  made 
governor  of  the  fortress,  Maria  Ivanovna  remained  in  his 
power  !    Great  God  !  what  would  become  of  her ! 

Pougatcheff  descended  the  steps.  His  horse  was  brought 
to  him.  He  vaulted  nimbly  into  the  saddle,  without  waiting 
for  the  Cossacks,  who  were  going  to  help  him  to  mount. 

At  that  moment  I  saw  my  Savelitch  emerge  from  the 
midst  of  the  crowd ;  he  approached  Pougatcheff  and  gave 
him  a  sheet  of  paper.  I  could  not  imagine  what  was  the 
meaning  of  this  proceeding  on  his  part. 

"  What  is  this  ? "  asked  Pougatcheff,  with  an  air  of  im- 

"  Read  it,  then  you  will  see,"  replied  Savelitch.  Pougat- 
cheff took  the  paper  and  examined  it  for  a  long  time  with  a 
consequential  look. 

"  Why  do  you  write  so  illegibly  ?  "  said  he  at  last.  "  Our 
lucid  eyes  ^  cannot  decipher  a  word.  Where  is  my  chief 

A  young  man,  in  the  uniform  of  a  corporal,  immediately 
ran  up  to  Pougatcheff. 

^  An  allusion  to  the  customaiy  form  of  speech  on  presenting  a  petition 
to  the  Czar:  "I  strike  the  earth  with  my  forehead,  and  present  my 
petition  to  your  lucid  eyes." 


"  Read  it  aloud,"  said  the  usurper,  giving  him  the  paper. 

I  was  exceedingly  curious  to  know  what  my  follower 
could  have  written  to  Pougatcheff  about.  The  chief  secre- 
tary, in  a  loud  voice,  began  to  spell  out  as  follows  : 

"Two  dressing-gowns,  one  of  linen  and  one  of  striped 
silk,  six  roubles." 

"  What  does  this  mean  ?  "  said  Pougatcheff,  frowning. 

'*  Order  him  to  read  on,"  replied  Savelitch  coolly. 

The  chief  secretary  continued : 

"  One  uniform  coat  of  fine  green  cloth,  seven  roubles. 

**  One  pair  of  white  cloth  breeches,  five  roubles. 

"  Twelve  Holland  linen  shirts  with  ruffles,  ten  roubles. 

"  A  chest  and  tea-service,  two  roubles  and  a  half.  .  .  ." 

"What  is  all  this  nonsense?"  exclaimed  Pougatcheff. 
"What  are  these  chests  and  breeches  with  ruffles  to  do  with 

Savelitch  cleared  his  throat  and  began  to  explain. 

"  This,  my  father,  you  will  please  to  understand  is  a  list 
of  my  master's  goods  that  have  been  stolen  by  those 
scoundrels " 

"  What  scoundrels  ?  "  said  Pougatcheff,  threateningly. 

"  I  beg  your  pardon,  that  was  a  slip  on  my  part,"  replied 
Savelitch.  "They  were  not  scoundrels,  but  your  fellows, 
who  have  rummaged  and  plundered  everything.  Do  not  be 
angry:  the  horse  has  got  four  legs,  and  yet  he  stumbles. 
Order  him  to  read  to  the  end." 

"  Read  on  to  the  end,"  said  Pougatcheff. 

The  secretary  continued : 

"  One  chintz  counterpane,  another  of  taffety  quilted  with 
cotton  wool,  four  roubles. 

"  A  fox-skin  pelisse,  covered  with  red  flannel,  forty  roubles. 

"Likewise  a  hare-skin  morning-gown,  presented  to  your 
Grace  at  the  inn  on  the  steppe,  fifteen  roubles." 

"What's  that'!"  exclaimed  Pougatcheff,  his  eyes  flashing  fire. 

94       poushkin's  prose  tales. 

I  confess  that  I  began  to  feel  alarmed  for  my  pooi 
servant.  He  was  about  to  enter  again  into  explanations, 
but  Pougatcheif  interrupted  him. 

"  How  dare  you  pester  me  with  such  nonsense ! "  he 
cried,  snatching  the  paper  out  of  the  secretary's  hands  and 
flinging  it  in  Savelitch's  face.  "  Stupid  old  man  !  You  have 
been  robbed ;  what  a  misfortune !  Why,  old  greybeard, 
you  ought  to  be  eternally  praying  to  God  for  me  and  my 
lads,  that  you  and  your  master  are  not  hanging  yonder  along 
with  the  other  traitors  to  me.  ...  A  hare-skin  morning- 
gown  !  Do  you  know  that  I  could  order  you  to  be  flayed 
alive  and  have  your  skin  made  into  a  morning-gown  ?  " 

"  As  you  please,"  rephed  Savelitch ;  "  but  I  am  not  a  free 
man,  and  must  be  answerable  for  my  lord's  goods." 

Pougatcheff  was  evidently  in  a  magnanimous  humour. 
He  turned  round  and  rode  off  without  saying  another  word. 
Shvabrin  and  the  chiefs  followed  him.  The  troops  marched 
out  of  the  fortress  in  order.  The  crowd  pressed  forward  to 
accompany  Pougatcheff.  I  remained  in  the  square  alone 
with  Savelitch.  My  servant  held  in  his  hand  the  Hst  of  my 
things  and  stood  looking  at  it  with  an  air  of  deep  regret. 

Seeing  me  on  such  good  terms  with  Pougatcheff,  he 
thought  that  he  might  take  advantage  of  the  circumstance ; 
but  his  sage  scheme  did  not  succeed.  I  was  on  the  point  of 
scolding  him  for  his  misplaced  zeal,  but  I  could  not  restrain 
myself  from  laughing. 

"  Laugh  away,  my  lord,"  replied  Savelitch  :  "  laugh  away  ; 
but  when  the  time  comes  for  you  to  procure  a  new  outfit,  we 
shall  see  if  you  will  laugh  then." 

I  hastened  to  the  priest's  house  to  see  Maria  Ivanovna. 
The  priest's  wife  met  me  with  sad  news.  During  the  night 
Maria  Ivanovna  had  been  seized  with  a  violent  attack  of 
fever.  She  lay  unconscious  and  in  a  delirium.  The  priest's 
wife  conducted  me  into  her  room.     I  softly  approached  her 

THE  captain's  DAUGHTER.  95 

bed.  The  change  in  her  face  startled  me.  She  did  not 
recognize  me.  For  a  long  time  I  stood  beside  her  without 
paying  any  heed  either  to  Father  Gerasim  or  to  his  good 
wife,  who  endeavoured  to  console  me.  Gloomy  thoughts 
took  possession  of  me.  The  condition  of  the  poor  defence- 
less orphan,  left  alone  in  the  midst  of  the  lawless  rebels,  as 
well  as  my  own  powerlessness,  terrified  me.  But  it  was  the 
thought  of  Shvabrin  more  than  anything  else  that  filled  my 
imagination  with  alarm.  Invested  with  power  by  the  usurper, 
and  entrusted  with  the  command  of  the  fortress,  in  which 
the  unhappy  girl — the  innocent  object  of  his  hatred — 
remained,  he  was  capable  of  any  villainous  act.  What  was 
I  to  do  ?  How  should  I  help  her  ?  How  could  I  rescue  her 
out  of  the  hands  of  the  brigands?  There  remained  only 
one  way.  I  resolved  to  set  out  immediately  for  Orenburg,  in 
order  to  hasten  the  deliverance  of  Bailogorsk,  and,  as  far  as 
possible,  to  co-operate  in  the  undertaking.  I  took  leave  of 
the  priest  and  of  Akoulina  Pamphilovna,  recommending  to 
their  care  her  whom  I  already  considered  as  my  wife.  I 
seized  the  hand  of  the  poor  girl  and  kissed  it,  bedewing  it 
with  my  tears. 

"  Farewell,"  said  the  pope's  wife  to  me,  accompanying  me 
to  the  door ;  "  farewell,  Peter  Andreitch.  Perhaps  we  shall 
see  each  other  again  in  happier  times.  Do  not  forget  us, 
and  write  to  us  often.  Poor  Maria  Ivanovna  has  nobody 
now,  except  you,  to  console  and  protect  her." 

On  reaching  the  square,  I  stopped  for  a  moment  and 
looked  at  the  gibbet,  then,  bowing  my  head  before  it,  I 
quitted  the  fortress  and  took  the  road  to  Orenburg,  accom- 
panied by  Savelitch,  who  had  not  left  my  side. 

I  was  walking  on,  occupied  with  my  reflections,  when 
suddenly  I  heard  behind  me  the  trampling  of  horses'  feet. 
Looking  round,  I  saw,  galloping  out  of  the  fortress,  a 
Cossack,  holding  a  Bashkir  horse  by  the  rein  and  making 

96  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

signs  to  me  from  afar.  I  stopped  and  soon  recognized  oui 
orderly.  Galloping  up  to  us,  he  dismounted  from  his  own 
horse,  and  giving  me  the  rein  of  the  other,  said : 

**  Your  lordship  !   our  father  sends  you  a  horse,  and  a 
pelisse  from   his    own    shoulders."     (To   the   saddle   was 
attached  a  sheepskin  pelisse.)     "  Moreover,"  continued  the  ; 
orderly  with  some  hesitation,  "  he  sends  you — haif-a- rouble 
— ^but  I  have  lost  it  on  the  road ;  be  generous  and  pardon  ^ 

Savelitch  eyed  him  askance  and  growled  out : 

"You  lost  it  on  the  road  !  What  is  that  chinking  in  your 
pocket,  then,  you  shameless  rascal ! " 

"What  is  that  chinking  in  my  pocket?"  replied  the 
orderly,  without  being  in  the  least  confused.  "  God  be  with 
you,  old  man  !    It  is  a  horse's  bit,  and  not  half-a-rouble."     | 

"Very  well,"  said  I,  putting  an  end  to  the  dispute. 
"  Give  my  thanks  to  him  who  sent  you ;  and  as  you  go 
back,  try  and  find  the  lost  half-rouble  and  keep  it  for  drink- 

"Many  thanks,  your  lordship,"  replied  he,  turning  his 
horse  round ;  "  I  will  pray  to  God  for  you  without  ceasing." 

With  these  words  he  galloped  back  again,  holding  one 
hand  to  his  pocket,  and  in  about  a  minute  he  was  hidden 
from  sight. 

I  put  on  the  pelisse  and  mounted  the  horse,  taking 
Savelitch  up  behind  me. 

"  Now  do  you  see,  my  lord,"  said  the  old  man,  "  that  I 
did  not  give  the  petition  to  the  rascal  in  vain  ?  The  robber 
felt  ashamed  of  himself.  Although  this  lean-looking  Bash- 
kir jade  and  this  sheepskin  pelisse  are  not  worth  half  of 
what  the  rascals  stole  from  us,  and  what  you  chose  to  give 
him  yourself,  they  may  yet  be  of  some  use  to  us ;  from  a 
vicious  dog,  even  a  tuft  of  hair." 




ON  approaching  Orenburg,  we  saw  a  crowd  of  convicts, 
with  shaven  heads,  and  with  faces  disfigured  by  the 
hangman's  pincers.  They  were  at  work  on  the  fortifications, 
under  the  direction  of  the  soldiers  of  the  garrison.  Some 
were  carrying  away  in  wheel -barrows  the  earth  and  refuse 
which  filled  the  moat,  others  with  shovels  were  digging  up 
the  ground;  on  the  rampart  the  masons  were  carrying 
stones  and  repairing  the  walls.  The  sentinels  stopped  us  at 
the  gate  and  demanded  our  passports.  As  soon  as  the 
ergeant  heard  that  I  came  from  Bailogorsk,  he  took  me 
straight  to  the  General's  house. 

I  found  him  in  the  garden.  He  was  inspecting  the  apple- 
trees,  which  the  autumn  winds  had  stripped  of  their  leaves, 
nd,  with  the  help  of  an  old  gardener,  was  carefully  covering 
them  with  straw.  His  face  expressed  tranquillity,  health, 
md  good-nature.  He  was  much  pleased  to  see  me,  and 
began  questioning  me  about  the  terrible  events  of  which  I 
tiad  been  an  eye-witness.  I  related  everything  to  him. 
The  old  man  listened  to  me  with  attention,  and  continued 
n  the  meantime  to  lop  off  the  dry  twigs. 

**  Poor  Mironoff !  "  said  he,  when  I  had  finished  my  sad 
itory;  "I  feel  very  sorry  for  him,  he  was  a  good  officer; 
d  Madame  Mironoff  was  a  good  woman, — how  clever  she 
was  at  pickling  mushrooms  !  And  what  has  become  of  Masha, 
he  Captain's  daughter  ?  " 


I  replied  that  she  was  still  at  the  fortress  in  the  hands  o1 
the  pope  and  his  wife. 

"  That  is  bad,  very  bad.  Nobody  can  place  any  depen- 
dence  upon  the  discipline  of  robbers.  What  will  become  oi 
the  poor  girl?" 

I  replied  that  the  fortress  of  Bailogorsk  was  not  far  off 
and  that,  without  doubt,  his  Excellency  would  not  delay  ir 
sending  thither  a  detachment  of  soldiers  to  deliver  the  pool 

The  General  shook  his  head  dubiously. 

*'  We  shall  see,  we  shall  see,"  said  he,  "  we  have  plentj 
of  time  to  talk  about  that.  Do  me  the  pleasure  of  taking  a 
cup  of  tea  with  me :  a  council  of  war  is  to  be  held  at  mj 
house  this  evening.  You  may  be  able  to  give  us  some 
trustworthy  information  concerning  this  rascal  Pougatchefi 
and  his  army.  And  now  go  and  rest  yourself  for  a  little 

I  went  to  the  quarter  assigned  to  me,  where  Savelitcli 
had  already  installed  himself,  and  where  I  awaited  with 
impatience  the  appointed  time.  The  reader  will  easilj 
imagine  that  I  did  not  fail  to  make  my  appearance  at  the 
council  which  was  to  have  such  an  influence  upon  my  fate. 
At  the  appointed  hour  I  repaired  to  the  General's  house. 

I  found  with  him  one  of  the  civil  officials  of  the  town, 
the  director  of  the  custom-house,  if  I  remember  rightly,  a 
stout,  red-faced  old  man  in  a  silk  coat.  He  began  tc 
question  me  about  the  fate  of  Ivan  Kouzmitch,  whom  he 
called  his  gossip,  and  frequently  interrupted  my  discourse 
with  additional  questions  and  moral  observations,  which,  ii 
they  did  not  prove  him  to  be  a  man  well  versed  in  military 
matters,  showed  at  least  that  he  possessed  sagacity  and 
common  sense.  In  the  meantime  the  other  persons  who 
had  been  invited  to  the  council  had  assembled.  When 
they  were  all  seated,  and  a  cup  of  tea  had  been  handed 


round  to  each,  the  General  entered  into  a  clear  and  detailed 
account  of  the  business  in  question. 

"And  now,  gentlemen,"  continued  he,  "we  must  decide 
in  what  way  we  are  to  act  against  the  rebels :  offensively  or 
defensively?  Each  of  these  methods  has  its  advantages 
and  disadvantages.  Offensive  warfare  holds  out  a  greater 
prospect  of  a  quicker  extermination  of  the  enemy ;  defen- 
sive action  is  safer  and  less  dangerous.  .  .  .  Therefore  let 
us  commence  by  putting  the  question  to  the  vote  in  legal 
order,  that  is,  beginning  with  the  youngest  in  rank.  En- 
sign," continued  he,  turning  to  me,  "will  you  please  favour 
us  with  your  opinion  ?  " 

I  rose,  and  after  having  described,  in  a  few  words,  Pou- 
gatcheff  and  his  followers,  I  expressed  my  firm  opinion  that 
the  usurper  was  not  in  a  position  to  withstand  disciplined 

My  opinion  was  received  by  the  civil  officials  with  evident 
dissatisfaction.  They  saw  in  it  only  the  rashness  and  temerity 
of  a  young  man.  There  arose  a  murmur,  and  I  distinctly 
heard  the  word  "greenhorn"  pronounced  in  a  whisper.  The 
General  turned  to  me  and  said  with  a  smile : 

"Ensign,  the  first  voices  in  councils  of  war  are  generally 
in  favour  of  adopting  offensive  measures.  We  will  now 
continue  and  hear  what  others  have  to  say.  Mr.  Coun- 
sellor of  the  College,  tell  us  your  opinion." 

The  little  old  man  in  the  silk  coat  hastily  swallowed  his 
:hird  cup  of  tea,  into  which  he  had  poured  some  rum,  and 
;hen  replied : 

"  I  think,  your  Excellency,  that  we  ought  to  act  neither 
ffensively  nor  defensively." 

"  How,  Sir  Counsellor?"  replied  the  astonished  General. 
Tactics  present  no  other  methods  of  action  ;  offensive 
ction  or  defensive.  .  .  ." 

"  Your  Excellency,  act  diplomatically.* 


loo  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

"  Ah !  your  idea  is  a  very  sensible  one.  Diplomatic 
action  is  allowed  by  the  laws  of  tactics,  and  we  will  profit  by 
your  advice.  We  might  offer  for  the  head  of  the  rascal  .  .  . 
seventy  or  even  a  hundred  roubles  .  .  .  out  of  the  secret 
funds.  .  .  ." 

"And  then,"  interrupted  the  Director  of  the  Customs, 
"may  I  become  a  Kirghis  ram,  and  not  a  College  Counsellor, 
if  these  robbers  do  not  deliver  up  to  us  their  leader,  bound 
hand  and  foot." 

"  We  will  think  about  it,  and  speak  of  it  again,"  replied 
the  General.     "  But,  in  any  case,  we  must  take  military  ! 
precautions.     Gentlemen,  give  your  votes  in  regular  order.**  j 

The  opinions  of  all  were  contrary  to  mine.  All  the  civil 
officials  expatiated  upon  the  untrustworthiness  of  the  troops, 
the  uncertainty  of  success,  the  necessity  of  being  cautious, 
and  the  like.  All  agreed  that  it  was  more  prudent  to 
remain  behind  the  stone  walls  of  the  fortress  under  the  i 
protection  of  the  cannon,  than  to  try  the  fortune  of  arms  in 
the  open  field.  At  length  the  General,  having  heard  all 
their  opinions,  shook  the  ashes  from  his  pipe  and  spoke  as 
follows : 

"  Gentlemen,  I  must  declare  to  you  that,  for  my  part,  I 
am  entirely  of  the  same  opinion  as  the  ensign ;  because  this 
opinion  is  founded  upon  sound  rules  of  tactics,  which  nearly 
always  give  the  preference  to  offensive  action  rather  than  to 

Then  he  paused  and  began  to  fill  his  pipe.  My  vanity 
triumphed.  I  cast  a  proud  glance  at  the  civil  officials,  who 
were  whispering  among  themselves  with  looks  of  displeasure 
and  uneasiness.  w 

"But,  gentlemen,"  continued  the  General,  heaving  a  deep 
sigh,  and  emitting  at  the  same  time  a  thick  cloud  of  tobacco 
smoke,  "I  dare  not  take  upon  myself  such  a  great  responsi- 
bility, when  it  is  a  question  of  the  safety  of  the  provinces 

THE  captain's   DAUGHTER.  lO' 

confided  to  me  by  Her  Imperial  Majesty;  my  Most  Gracioiis 
Sovereign.  Therefore  it  is  that  I  fall  in  With  the  view's  ot 
the  majority,  who  have  decided  that  it  is  safer  and  more 
prudent  to  await  the  siege  inside  the  town,  and  to  repel  the 
attack  of  the  enemy  by  the  use  of  artillery  and — if  possible 
— by  sallies." 

The  officials  in  their  turn  now  glanced  at  me  ironically. 
The  council  separated.  I  could  not  but  deplore  the  weak- 
ness of  this  estimable  soldier,  who,  contrary  to  his  own 
conviction,  resolved  to  follow  the  advice  of  ignorant  and 
inexperienced  persons. 

Some  days  after  this  memorable  council  we  heard  that 
Pougatcheff,  faithful  to  his  promise,  was  marching  on  Oren- 
burg. From  the  lofty  walls  of  the  town  I  observed  the  army 
of  the  rebels.  It  seemed  to  me  that  their  numbers  had 
increased  since  the  last  assault,  of  which  I  had  been  a 
witness.  They  had  with  them  also  some  pieces  of  artillery 
which  had  been  taken  by  Pougatcheff  from  the  small 
fortresses  that  had  been  conquered  by  him.  Remembering 
the  decision  of  the  council,  I  foresaw  a  long  incarceration 
within  the  walls  of  Orenburg,  and  I  was  almost  ready  to 
weep  with  vexation. 

I  do  not  intend  to  describe  the  siege  of  Orenburg,  which 
belongs  to  history  and  not  to  family  memoirs.  I  will  merely 
observe  that  this  siege,  through  want  of  caution  on  the  part 
of  the  local  authorities,  was  a  disastrous  one  for  the  inhabi- 
tants, who  had  to  endure  hunger  and  every  possible  priva- 
tion. It  can  easily  be  imagined  that  life  in  Orenburg  was 
almost  unbearable.  All  awaited  in  melancholy  anxiety  the 
decision  of  fate ;  all  complained  of  the  famine,  which  was 
really  terrible.  The  inhabitants  became  accustomed  to  the 
cannon-balls  falling  upon  their  houses ;  even  Pougatcheff's 
assaults  no  longer  produced  any  excitement.  I  was  dying 
of  ennui.    Time  wore   on.     I   received   no   letters   from 

I02  PGUSHKIN'S   prose  TALES. 

Bailogorsk;  All  the  roads  were  cut  off.  Separation  from 
Maria  Ivanovna  became  insupportable  to  me.  Uncertainty 
with  respect  to  her  fate  tortured  me.  My  only  diversion 
consisted  in  making  excursions  outside  the  city.  Thanks 
to  the  kindness  of  Pougatcheff,  I  had  a  good  horse,  with 
which  I  shared  my  scanty  allowance  of  food,  and  upon 
whose  back  I  used  to  ride  out  daily  beyond  the  walls  and 
open  fire  upon  Pougatcheff 's  partisans.  In  these  skirmishes 
the  advantage  was  generally  on  the  side  of  the  rebels,  who 
had  plenty  to  eat  and  drink,  and  possessed  good  horses. 
Our  miserable  cavalry  were  unable  to  cope  with  them. 
Sometimes  our  famished  infantry  made  a  sally ;  but  the 
depth  of  the  snow  prevented  their  operations  being  success- 
ful against  the  flying  cavalry  of  the  enemy.  The  artillery 
thundered  in  vain  from  the  summit  of  the  ramparts,  and 
had  it  been  in  the  field,  it  could  not  have  advanced  on 
account  of  our  emaciated  horses.  Such  was  our  style  of 
warfare  !  And  this  was  what  the  civil  officials  of  Orenburg 
called  prudence  and  foresight ! 

One  day,  when  we  had  succeeded  in  dispersing  and 
driving  off  a  tolerably  large  body  of  the  enemy,  I  came  up 
with  a  Cossack  who  had  remained  behind  his  companions, 
and  I  was  just  about  to  strike  him  with  my  Turkish  sabre, 
when  he  suddenly  took  off  his  cap  and  cried  out : 

"  Good  day,  Peter  Andreitch  ;  how  do  you  do  ?  " 

I  looked  at  him  and  recognized  our  orderly.  I  cannot 
say  how  delighted  I  was  to  see  him. 

"  Good  day,  Maximitch,"  said  I  to  him.  "  How  long  is 
it  since  you  left  Bailogorsk  ?  " 

"  Not  long,  Peter  Andreitch ;  I  only  returned  from  there 
yesterday.     I  have  a  letter  for  you." 

"Where  is  it?"  cried  I,  perfectly  beside  myself  with 

"I  have  it  here,"  replied  Maximitch,  placing  his  hand 


upon  his  bosom.     "  I  promised  Palasha  that  I  would  give 
it  to  you  somehow." 

He  then  gave  me  a  folded  paper  and  immediately  galloped 
off.  I  opened  it  and,  deeply  agitated,  read  the  following 
lines : 

"  It  has  pleased  God  to  deprive  me  suddenly  of  both 
father  and  mother :  I  have  now  on  earth  neither  a  relation 
nor  a  protector.  I  therefore  turn  to  you,  because  I  know 
that  you  have  always  wished  me  well,  and  that  you  are  ever 
ready  to  help  others.  I  pray  to  God  that  this  letter  may 
reach  you  in  some  way  !  Maximitch  has  promised  to  give 
it  to  you.  Palasha  has  also  heard  from  Maximitch  that  he 
has  frequently  seen  you  from  a  distance  in  the  sorties,  and 
that  you  do  not  take  the  least  care  of  yourself,  not  thinking 
about  those  who  pray  to  God  for  you  in  tears.  I  was  ill  a 
long  time,  and,  when  I  recovered,  Alexei  Ivanovitch,  who 
commands  here  in  place  of  my  deceased  father,  compelled 
Father  Gerasim  to  deliver  me  up  to  him,  threatening  him 
with  Pougatcheff's  anger  if  he  refused.  I  live  in  our  house 
which  is  guarded  by  a  sentry.  Alexei  Ivanovitch  wants  to 
compel  me  to  marry  him.  He  says  that  he  saved  my  hfe 
because  he  did  not  reveal  the  deception  practised  by  Akou- 
lina  Pamphilovna,  who  told  the  rebels  that  I  was  her  niece. 
But  I  would  rather  die  than  become  the  wife  of  such  a  man 
as  Alexei  Ivanovitch.  He  treats  me  very  cruelly,  and 
threatens  that  if  I  do  not  change  my  mind  and  agree  to  his 
proposal,  he  will  conduct  me  to  the  rebels'  camp,  where  I 
shall  suffer  the  same  fate  as  Elizabeth  Kharloff.^  I  have 
begged  Alexei  Ivanovitch  to  give  me  time  to  reflect.  He 
has  consented  to  give  me  three  days  longer,  and  if  at  the 
end  of  that  time  I  do  not  agree  to  become  his  wife,  he  will 

^  A  Commandant's  daughter,  whom  Pougatcheff  outraged  and  then 
put  to  death. 

I04  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

show  me  no  further  mercy.  Oh,  Peter  Andreitch  !  you  are 
my  only  protector ;  save  a  poor  helpless  girl !  Implore  the 
General  and  all  the  commanders  to  send  us  help  as  soon  as 
possible,  and  come  yourself  if  you  can. 

"  I  remain  your  poor  obedient  orphan, 

"  Maria  Mironoff." 

The  reading  of  this  letter  almost  drove  me  out  of  my 
mind.  I  galloped  back  to  the  town,  spurring  my  poor 
horse  without  mercy.  On  the  way  I  turned  over  in  my 
mind  one  plan  and  another  for  the  rescue  of  the  poor 
girl,  but  I  could  not  come  to  any  definite  conclusion. 
On  reaching  the  town  I  immediately  repaired  to  the 
General's,  and  presented  myself  before  him  without  the  least 

He  was  walking  up  and  down  the  room,  smoking  his 
meerschaum  pipe.  On  seeing  me  he  stopped.  Probably 
he  was  struck  by  my  appearance,  for  he  anxiously  inquired 
the  reason  of  my  hasty  visit. 

"Your  Excellency,"  said  I  to  him,  **I  come  to  you  as  I 
would  to  my  own  father  :  for  Heaven's  sake,  do  not  refuse 
my  request;  the  happiness  of  my  whole  life  depends 
upon  it  I " 

"What  is  the  matter?"  asked  the  astonished  old  soldier. 
"  What  can  I  do  for  you  ?    Speak  ! " 

"  Your  Excellency,  allow  me  to  take  a  battalion  of  soldiers 
and  a  company  of  Cossacks  to  recapture  the  fortress  of 

The  General  looked  at  me  earnestly,  imagining,  with- 
out doubt,  that  I  had  taken  leave  of  my  senses — and,  for 
the  matter  of  that,  he  was  not  very  far  out  in  his  supposi- 

"  How  ? — what  ?  Recapture  the  fortress  of  Bailogorsk  ?  " 
said  he  at  last. 


"I  will  answer  for  the  success  of  the  undertaking,"  I 
replied  with  ardour ;  "  only  let  me  go." 

"  No,  young  man,"  said  he,  shaking  his  head.  "  At  such 
a  great  distance  the  enemy  would  easily  cut  off  your  com- 
munication with  the  principal  strategical  point,  and  gain  a 
complete  victory  over  you.  Communication  being  cut 
off.  .  .  ." 

I  became  alarmed  when  I  perceived  that  he  was  about 
to  enter  upon  a  military  dissertation,  and  I  hastened  to 
interrupt  him. 

"The  daughter  of  Captain  Mironoff  has  written  a  letter 
to  me,"  I  said  to  him ;  "  she  asks  for  help  :  Shvabrin  wants 
to  compel  her  to  become  his  wife." 

"  Indeed  !  Oh,  this  Shvabrin  is  a  great  rascal,  and  if  he 
should  fall  into  my  hands  I  will  order  him  to  be  tried 
within  twenty-four  hours,  and  we  will  have  him  shot  on  the 
parapet  of  the  fortress.  But  in  the  meantime  we  must  have 

**  Have  patience ! "  I  cried,  perfectly  beside  myself. 
"But  in  the  meantime  he  will  force  Maria  Ivanovna  to 
become  his  wife  ! " 

"  Oh  !  "  exclaimed  the  General.  "  But  even  that  would  be 
no  great  misfortune  for  her.  It  would  be  better  for  her  to 
become  the  wife  of  Shvabrin,  he  would  then  take  her  under 
his  protection ;  and  when  we  have  shot  him  we  will  soon 
find  a  sweetheart  for  her,  please  God.  Pretty  widows  do 
not  remain  single  long ;  I  mean  that  a  widow  finds  a 
husband  much  quicker  than  a  spinster." 

"  I  would  rather  die,"  said  I  in  a  passion,  "  than  resign 
her  to  Shvabrin." 

"  Oh,  oh  !  "  said  the  old  man,  **  now  I  understand.  You 
are  evidently  in  love  with  Maria  Ivanovna,  and  that  alters 
the  case  altogether.  Poor  fellow !  But,  for  all  that,  I 
cannot  give  you  a  battalion  of  soldiers  and  fifty  Cossacks. 

io6  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

Such  an  expedition  would  be  the  height  of  folly,  and  I 
cannot  take  the  responsibility  of  it  upon  myself." 

I  cast  down  my  head;  despair  took  possession  of  me. 
Suddenly  a  thought  flashed  through  my  mind  :  what  it  was, 
the  reader  will  discover  in  the  following  chapter,  as  the  old 
romance  writers  used  to  say. 




I  LEFT  the  General  and  hastened  to  my  own  quarters. 
Savelitch  received  me  with  his  usual  admonitions. 

"  What  pleasure  do  you  find,  my  lord,  in  fighting  against 
drunken  robbers  ?  Is  that  the  kind  of  occupation  for  a 
nobleman  ?  All  hours  are  not  alike,  and  you  will  sacrifice 
your  life  for  nothing.  It  would  be  all  well  and  good  if  you 
were  fighting  against  the  Turks  or  the  Swedes,  but  it  is  a 
shame  to  mention  the  name  of  the  enemy  that  you  are 
dealing  with  now." 

I  interrupted  him  in  his  speech  by  the  question : 

"  How  much  money  have  I  left  ?  " 

**You  have  a  tolerably  good  sum  still  left,"  he  replied, 
with  a  look  of  satisfaction.  "  In  spite  of  their  searching 
and  rummaging,  I  succeeded  in  hiding  it  from  the  robbers." 

So  saying,  he  drew  from  his  pocket  a  long  knitted  purse, 
filled  with  silver  pieces. 

"  Well,  Savelitch,"  said  I  to  him,  "  give  me  half  of  what 
you  have,  and  keep  the  rest  yourself.  I  am  going  to 
Fortress  Bailogorsk." 

"  My  Httle  father,  Peter  Andreitch  ! "  said  my  good  old 
servant  in  a  trembling  voice  ;  "  do  not  tempt  God  !  How 
can  you  travel  at  the  present  time,  when  none  of  the  roads 
are  free  from  the  robbers?  Have  compassion  upon  your 
parents,  if  you  have  no  pity  for  yourself.  Where  do  you 
want  to  go?    And  why?    Wait  a  little  while.     The  troops 


will  soon  be  here  and  will  quickly  make  short  work  of  the 
robbers.    Then  you  may  go  in  whatever  direction  you  like." 

But  my  resolution  was  not  to  be  shaken. 

"  It  is  too  late  to  reflect,"  I  said  to  the  old  man.  "  I 
must  go,  I  cannot  do  otherwise  than  go.  Do  not  grieve, 
Savelitch  :  God  is  merciful,  perhaps  we  may  see  each  other 
again.  Have  no  scruples  about  spending  the  money,  and 
don't  be  sparing  of  it.  Buy  whatever  you  require,  even 
though'  you  have  to  pay  three  times  the  value  of  it.  I  give 
this  money  to  you.     If  in  three  days  I  do  not  return " 

**  What  are  you  talking  about,  my  lord  ?  "  said  Savelitch, 
interrupting  me.  "  Do  you  think  that  I  could  let  you  go 
alone  ?  Do  not  imagine  anything  of  the  kind.  If  you  have 
resolved  to  go,  I  will  accompany  you,  even  though  it  be  on 
foot ;  I  will  not  leave  you.  The  idea  of  my  sitting  down 
behind  a  stone  wall  without  you  !  Do  you  think  then  that 
I  have  gone  out  of  my  mind  ?  Do  as  you  please,  my  lord, 
but  I  will  not  leave  you." 

I  knew  that  it  was  useless  to  dispute  with  Savelitch,  and 
I  allowed  him  to  prepare  for  the  journey.  In  half  an  hour 
I  was  seated  upon  the  back  of  my  good  horse,  while  Save- 
litch was  mounted  upon  a  lean  and  limping  jade,  which  one 
of  the  inhabitants  of  the  town  had  given  to  him  for  nothing, 
not  having  the  means  to  keep  it  any  longer.  We  reached 
the  gates  of  the  town ;  the  sentinels  allowed  us  to  pass,  and 
we  left  Orenburg  behind  us. 

It  was  beginning  to  grow  dark.  My  road  led  past  the 
village  of  Berd,  one  of  Pougatcheff's  haunts.  The  way  was 
covered  with  snow,  but  over  the  whole  of  the  steppe  could 
be  seen  the  footprints  of  horses,  renewed  every  day.  I  rode 
forward  at  a  quick  trot.  Savelitch  could  hardly  keep  pace 
with  me,  and  kept  calling  out : 

"  Not  so  fast,  my  lord,  for  Heaven's  sake,  not  so  fast !  My 
accursed  hack  cannot  keep  up  with  your  long-legged  devil. 


Where  are  you  off  to  in  such  a  hurry?  It  would  be  all  very 
well  if  we  were  going  to  a  feast,  but  we  are  more  likely  going 
to  run  our  heads  into  a  noose.  .  .  .  Peter  Andreitch  .  .  . 
little  father  .  .  .  Peter  Andreitch  !  Lord  God  !  the  child 
is  rushing  to  destruction  ! " 

We  soon  caught  sight  of  the  fires  of  Berd  glimmering  in 
the  distance.  We  approached  some  ravines,  which  served 
as  natural  defences  to  the  hamlet.  Savelitch  still  followed 
me,  and  did  not  cease  to  utter  his  plaintive  entreaties.  I 
hoped  to  be  able  to  ride  round  the  village  without  being 
observed,  when  suddenly  I  perceived  through  the  darkness, 
straight  in-  front  of  me,  five  peasants  armed  with  clubs ;  it 
was  the  advanced  guard  of  Pougatcheff' s  camp.  They 
challenged  us.  Not  knowing  the  password,  I  wanted  to 
ride  on  without  saying  anything;  but  they  immediately 
surrounded  me,  and  one  of  them  seized  hold  of  my  horse's 
bridle.  I  drew  my  sword  and  struck  the  peasant  on  the 
head.  His  cap  saved  him,  but  he  staggered  and  let  the 
reins  fall  from  his  hand.  The  others  grew  frightened  and 
took  to  their  heels;  I  seized  the  opportunity,  and,  setting 
spurs  to  my  horse,  I  galloped  oif. 

The  increasing  darkness  of  the  night  might  have  saved 
me  from  further  dangers,  but,  turning  round  all  at  once,  I 
perceived  that  Savelitch  was  no  longer  with  me.  The  pooi 
old  man,  with  his  lame  horse,  had  not  been  able  to  get 
clear  of  the  robbers.  What  was  to  be  done  ?  After  waiting  a 
few  minutes  for  him,  and  feeling  convinced  that  he  had  been 
stopped,  I  turned  my  horse  round  to  hasten  to  his  assistance. 

Approaching  the  ravine,  I  heard  in  the  distance  confused 
cries,  and  the  voice  of  my  Savelitch.  I  quickened  my  pace, 
and  soon  found  myself  in  the  midst  of  the  peasants  who  had 
stopped  me  a  few  minutes  before.  Savelitch  was  among 
them.  With  loud  shouts  they  threw  themselves  upon  me 
and  dragged  me  from  my  horse  in  a  twinkling.     One  of 



them,  apparently  the  leader  of  the  band,  informed  us  that 
he  was  going  to  conduct  us  immediately  before  the  Czar. 
"And  our  father,"  added  he,  "will  decide  whether  you  shall 
be  hanged  immediately  or  wait  till  daylight." 

I  offered  no  resistance ;  SaveUtch  followed  my  example, 
and  the  sentinels  led  us  away  in  triumph. 

We  crossed  the  ravine  and  entered  the  village.  In  all  the 
huts  fires  were  burning.  Noise  and  shouts  resounded  on 
every  side.  In  the  streets  I  met  a  large  number  of  people ; 
but  nobody  observed  us  in  the  darkness,  and  no  one  re- 
cognized in  me  an  officer  from  Orenburg.  We  were  con- 
ducted straight  to  a  cottage  which  stood  at  the  corner  where 
two  streets  met.  Before  the  door  stood  several  wine-casks 
and  two  pieces  of  artillery. 

"This  is  the  palace,"  said  one  of  the  peasants;  "we  will  1 
announce  you  at  once." 

He  entered  the  cottage.  I  glanced  at  Savelitch  :  the  old 
man  was  making  the  sign  of  the  cross  and  muttering  his 
prayers  to  himself, 

I  waited  a  long  time;  at  last  the  peasant  returned  and 
said  to  me : 

"  Come  inside ;  our  father  has  given  orders  for  the  officer 
to  be  brought  before  him." 

I  entered  the  cottage,  or  the  palace,  as  the  peasants  called 
it.  It  was  lighted  by  two  tallow  candles,  and  the  walls  were 
covered  with  gilt  paper ;  otherwise,  the  benches,  the  table, 
the  little  wash-hand  basin  suspended  by  a  cord,  the  towel 
hanging  on  a  nail,  the  oven-fork  in  the  corner,  the.  broad 
shelf  loaded  with  pots — everything  was  the  same  as  in  an  j 
ordinary  cottage.  Pougatcheff  was  seated  under  the  holy  ] 
picture,^  dressed  in  a  red  caftan  and  wearing  a  tall  cap,  and  i 

^  The  picture  of  some  saint,  usually  painted  on  wood.  There  is 
generally  one  of  them  hung  in  the  corner  of  every  room  in  the  houses  of 
the  Russians. 

THE  captain's  DAUGHTER.  Ill 

with  his  arms  set  akimbo  in  a  very  self-important  manner. 
Around  him  stood  several  of  his  principal  followers,  with 
looks  of  feigned  respect  and  submission  upon  their  faces. 
It  was  evident  that  the  news  of  the  arrival  of  an  officer  from 
Orenburg  had  awakened  a  great  curiosity  among  the  rebels, 
and  that  they  had  prepared  to  receive  me  with  as  much 
pomp  as  possible.  PougatchefT  recognized  me  at  the  first 
glance.     His  assumed  importance  vanished  all  at  once. 

"  Ah  !  your  lordship  ! "  said  he  gaily.  "  How  do  you  do  ? 
What,  in  Heaven's  name,  has  brought  you  here  ?  " 

I  replied  that  I  was  travelling  on  my  own  business,  and 
that  his  people  had  stopped  me. 

"What  business?"  asked  he. 

I  knew  not  what  to  reply.  Pougatcheff,  supposing  that  I 
Idid  not  like  to  explain  in  the  presence  of  witnesses,  turned 
to  his  companions  and  ordered  them  to  go  out  of  the  room. 
All  obeyed,  except  two,  who  did  not  stir  from  their  places. 

"Speak  boldly  before  them,"  said  Pougatcheff,  "I  do  not 
bide  anything  from  them." 

I  glanced  stealthily  at  the  impostor's  confidants.  One  of 
^hem,  a  weazen-faced,  crooked  old  man,  with  a  short  grey 
peard,  had  nothing  remarkable  about  him  except  a  blue 
•iband,  which  he  wore  across  his  grey  tunic.  But  never 
ihall  I  forget  his  companion.  He  was  a  tall,  powerful, 
)road-shouldered  man,  and  seemed  to  me  to  be  about  forty- 
ive  years  of  age.  A  thick  red  beard,  grey  piercing  eyes,  a 
lose  without  nostrils,  and  reddish  scars  upon  his  forehead 
nd  cheeks,  gave  to  his  broad,  pock-marked  face  an  in- 
describable expression.  He  had  on  a  red  shirt,  a  Kirghis 
obe,  and  Cossack  trousers.  The  first,  as  I  learned  after- 
ards,  was  the  runaway  corporal  Bailoborodoff ;  the  other, 
fanassy  Sokoloff,  surnamed   Khlopousha,^  a  condemned 

^  The  name  of  a  celebrated  bandit  of  the  last  century,  who  for  a  long 
me  offered  resistance  to  the  Imperial  troops. 

112  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

criminal,  who  had  three  times  escaped  from  the  mines  of 
Siberia.  In  spite  of  the  feelings  of  agitation  which  so  ex- 
clusively occupied  my  mind  at  that  time,  the  society  in  the 
midst  of  which  I  so  unexpectedly  found  myself  awakened 
my  curiosity  in  a  powerful  degree.  But  Pougatcheff  soon 
recalled  me  to  myself  by  his  question  : 

"  Speak  !  on  what  business  did  you  leave  Orenburg  ?  " 

A  strange  thought  came  into  my  head :  it  seemed  to  me 
that  Providence,  by  conducting  me  a  second  time  into  the 
presence  of  Pougatcheff,  gave  me  the  opportunity  of  carrying 
my  project  into  execution.  I  determined  to  take  advantage 
of  it,  and,  without  any  further  reflection,  I  replied  to  Pougat- 
cheff's  question : 

"  I  was  going  to  the  fortress  of  Bailogorsk  to  rescue  an 
orphan  who  is  oppressed  there." 

Pougatcheff's  eyes  sparkled. 

"Which  of  my  people  dares  to  oppress  the  orphan?*' 
cried  he.  "  Were  he  seven  feet  high  he  should  not  escape 
my  judgment.     Speak  !  who  is  the  culprit?" 

"Shvabrin  is  the  culprit,"  replied  I.  "He  holds  captive 
the  young  girl  whom  you  saw  ill  at  the  priest's  house,  and 
wants  to  force  her  to  marry  him." 

"  I  will  soon  put  Shvabrin  in  his  right  place,"  said  Pougat- 
cheff fiercely.  "He  shall  learn  what  it  is  to  oppress  my 
people  according  to  his  own  will  and  pleasure.  I  will  have 
him  hanged." 

"  Allow  me  to  speak  a  word,"  said  Khlopousha  in  a  hoarse 
voice.  "  You  were  in  too  great  a  hurry  in  appointing  Shva- 
brin to  the  command  of  the  fortress,  and  now  you  are  in  too 
great  a  hurry  to  hang  him.  You  have  already  offended  the 
Cossacks  by  placing  a  nobleman  over  them  as  their  chief; 
do  not  now  alarm  the  nobles  by  hanging  them  at  the  first 

"  They  ought  neither  to  be  pitied  nor  favoured,"  said  the 


little  old  man  with  the  blue  riband.  "  To  hang  Shvabrin 
would  be  no  great  misfortune,  neither  would  it  be  amiss  to  put 
this  officer  through  a  regular  course  of  questions.  Why  has 
he  deigned  to  pay  us  a  visit  ?  If  he  does  not  recognize  you 
as  Czar,  he  cannot  come  to  seek  justice  from  you ;  and  if  he 
does  recognize  you,  why  has  he  remained  up  to  the  present 
time  in  Orenburg  along  with  your  enemies  ?  Will  you  not 
order  him  to  be  conducted  to  the  court-house,  and  have  a 
fire  lit  there  ?  ^  It  seems  to  me  that  his  Grace  is  sent  to  us 
from  the  generals  in  Orenburg." 

The  logic  of  the  old  rascal  seemed  to  me  to  be  plausible 
enough.  A  shudder  passed  through  the  whole  of  my  body, 
when  I  thought  into  whose  hands  I  had  fallen.  Pougatcheff 
observed  my  agitation. 

**  Well,  your  lordship,"  said  he  to  me,  winking  his  eyes ; 
**my  Field-Marshal,  it  seems  to  me,  speaks  to  the  point. 
What  do  you  think  ?  " 

Pougatcheff 's  raillery  restored  my  courage.  I  calnsly 
replied  that  I  was  in  his  power,  and  that  he  could  deal  with 
me  in  whatever  way  he  pleased. 

"  Good,"  said  Pougatcheff.  "  Now  tell  me,  in  what  con- 
dition is  your  town  ?  " 

"  Thank  God  ! "  I  replied,  "  everything  is  all  right." 

*'  All  right !  "  repeated  Pougatcheff,  "  and  the  people  are 
dying  of  hunger  ! " 

The  impostor  spoke  the  truth;  but  in  accordance  with 
the  duty  imposed  upon  me  by  my  oath,  I  assured  him  that 
what  he  had  heard  were  only  idle  reports,  and  that  in  Oreur 
burg  there  was  a  sufficiency  of  all  kinds  of  provisions. 

"  You  see,"  observed  the  little  old  man,  "  that  he  deceives 
you  to  your  face.  All  the  deserters  unanimously  declare 
that  famine  and  sickness  are  rife  in  Orenburg,  that   they 

*  For  the  purpose  of  torture. 

114  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

are  eating  carrion  there  and  think  themselves  fortunate  to 
get  it  to  eatj  and  yet  his  Grace  assures  us  that  there  is 
plenty  of  everything  there.  If  you  wish  to  hang  Shvabrin, 
then  hang  this  young  fellow  on  the  same  gallows,  that  they 
may  have  nothing  to  reproach  each  other  with." 

The  words  of  the  accursed  old  man  seemed  to  produce 
an  effect  upon  Pougatcheff.  Fortunately,  Khlopousha  began 
to  contradict  his  companion. 

"  That  will  do,  Naoumitch,"  said  he  to  him :  "  you  only 
think  of  strangling  and  hanging.  What  sort  of  a  hero  are 
you  ?  To  look  at  you,  one  is  puzzled  to  imagine  how  your 
body  and  soul  contrive  to  hang  together.  You  have  one 
foot  in  the  grave  yourself,  and  you  want  to  kill  others. 
Haven't  you  enough  blood  on  your  conscience  ?  " 

"  And  what  sort  of  a  saint  are  you  ?  "  replied  Bailoboro- 
doff.     "  Whence  this  compassion  on  your  side  ?  " 

"Without  doubt,"  replied  Khlopousha,  "I  also  am  a 
sinner,  and  this  hand" — here  he  clenched  his  bony  fist 
and,  pushing  back  his  sleeve,  disclosed  his  hairy  arm — "  and 
this  hand  is  guilty  of  having  shed  Christian  blood.  But  I 
killed  my  enemy,  and  not  my  guest ;  on  the  open  highway 
or  in  a  dark  wood,  and  not  in  the  house,  sitting  behind  the 
stove;  with  the  axe  and  club,  and  not  with  old  woman's 

The  old  man  turned  round  and  muttered  the  words : 
** Slit  nostrils!" 

"What  are  you  muttering,  you  old  greybeard?"  cried 
Khlopousha.  "  I  will  give  you  slit  nostrils.  Just  wait  a 
little,  and  your  turn  will  come  too.  Heaven  grant  that  your 
nose  may  smell  the  pincers.  .  .  In  the  meantime,  take 
care  that  I  don't  pull  out  your  ugly  beard  by  the  roots." 

"Gentlemen,  generals!"  said  Pougatcheff  loftily,  "there 
has  been  enough  of  this  quarrelling  between  you.  It  would 
be  no  great  misfortune  if  all  the  Orenburg  dogs  were  hang- 


ing  by  the  heels  from  the  same  crossbeam ;  but  it  would  be 
a  very  great  misfortune  if  our  own  dogs  were  to  begin 
devouring  each  other.  So  now  make  it  up  and  be  friends 

Khlopousha  and  Bailoborodoff  said  not  a  word,  but  glared 
furiously  at  each  other.  I  felt  the  necessity  of  changing  the 
subject  of  a  conversation  which  might  end  in  a  very  dis- 
agreeable manner  for  me,  and  turning  to  Pougatcheff,  I  said 
to  him  with  a  cheerful  look  : 

*'  Ah  !  I  had  almost  forgotten  to  thank  you  for  the  horse 
and  pelisse.  Without  you  I  should  never  have  reached  the 
town,  and  I  should  have  been  frozen  to  death  on  the  road." 

My  stratagem  succeeded.  Pougatcheff  became  good- 
humoured  again. 

"  The  payment  ol  a  debt  is  its  beauty,"  said  he,  winking 
his  eyes.  "  And  now  tell  me,  what  have  you  to  do  with  this 
young  girl  whom  Shvabrin  persecutes  ?  Has  she  kindled  a 
flame  in  your  young  heart,  eh  ?  " 

"  She  is  my  betrothed,"  I  replied,  observing  a  favourable 
change  in  the  storm,  and  not  deeming  it  necessary  to  con- 
ceal the  truth. 

''Your  betrothed!"  exclaimed  Pougatcheff.  *VWhy  did 
you  not  say  so  before  ?  We  will  marry  you,  then,  and  have 
some  merriment  at  your  wedding  ! " 

Then  turning  to  Bailoborodoff: 

*' Listen,  Field-Marshal !"  said  he  to  him:  "his  lordship 
and  I  are  old  friends  ;  let  us  sit  down  to  supper ;  morning's 
udgment  is  wiser  than  that  of  evening — so  we  will  see 
to-morrow  what  is  to  be  done  with  him." 

I  would  gladly  have  declined  the  proposed  honour,  but 

there  was  no  help  for  it.    Two  young  Cossack  girls,  daughters 

f  the  owner  of  the  cottage,  covered  the  table  with  a  white 

loth,  and  brought  in  some  bread,  fish-soup,  and  several 

ottles  of  wine  and  beer,  and  for  the  second  time  I  found 



myself  seated  at  the  same  table  with  Pougatcheff  and  his 
terrible  companions. 

The  drunken  revel,  of  which  I  was  an  involuntary  witness, 
continued  till  late  into  the  night.  At  last,  intoxication  began 
to  overcome  the  three  associates.  Pougatcheff  fell  off  to 
sleep  where  he  was  sitting :  his  companions  rose  and  made 
signs  to  me  to  leave  him  where  he  was.  I  went  out  with 
them.  By  order  of  Khlopousha,  the  sentinel  conducted  me 
to  the  justice-room,  where  I  found  Savelitch,  and  where 
they  left  me  shut  up  with  him.  My  servant  was  so  astonished 
at  all  he  saw  and  heard,  that  he  could  not  ask  me  a  single 
question.  He  lay  down  in  the  dark,  and  continued  to  sigh 
and  moan  for  a  long  time ;  but  at  length  he  began  to  snore, 
and  I  gave  myself  up  to  meditations,  which  hindered  me 
from  obtaining  sleep  for  a  single  minute  during  the  whole 
of  the  night. 

The  next  morning,  Pougatcheff  gave  orders  for  me  to  be 
brought  before  him.  I  went  to  him.  In  front  of  his  door 
stood  a  kibitka^  with  three  Tartar  horses  harnessed  to  it. 
The  crowd  filled  the  street.  I  encountered  Pougatcheff  in 
the  hall.  He  was  dressed  for  a  journey,  being  attired  in  a 
fur  cloak  and  a  Kirghis  cap.  His  companions  of  the  night 
before  stood  around  him,  exhibiting  an  appearance  of  sub- , 
mission,  which  contrasted  strongly  with  everything  that  I 
had  witnessed  the  previous  evening.  Pougatcheff  saluted 
me  in  a  cheerful  tone,  and  ordered  me  to  sit  down  beside 
him  in  the  kibitka. 

We  took  our  seats. 

"  To  the  fortress  of  Bailogorsk  ! "  said  Pougatcheff  to  the 
broad-shouldered  Tartar  who  drove  the  vehicle.  My  heart 
beat  violently.  The  horses  broke  into  a  gallop,  the  little 
bell  tinkled,  and  the  kibitka  flew  over  the  snow. 

"  Stop !  stop  !  **  cried  a  voice  which  I  knew  only  too  well, 
and  I  saw  Savelitch  running  towards  us. 

THE  captain's  DAUGHTER.  II7 

Pougatcheff  ordered  the  driver  to  stop. 

"  Little  father,  Peter  Andreitch  ! "  cried  my  servant ;  "  do 
not  leave  me  in  my  old  age  among  these  scoun " 

"  Ah,  old  greybeard  ! "  said  Pougatcheff  to  him.  "  It  is 
God's  will  that  we  should  meet  again.  Well,  spring  up  behind." 

*'  Thanks,  Czar,  thanks,  my  own  father ! "  replied  Save- 
litch,  taking  his  seat.  "  May  God  give  you  a  hundred  years 
of  life  and  good  health  for  deigning  to  cast  your  eyes  upon 
and  console  an  old  man.  I  will  pray  to  God  for  you  all  the 
days  of  my  life,  and  I  will  never  again  speak  about  the  hare- 
skin  pelisse." 

This  allusion  to  the  hareskin  pelisse  might  have  made 
Pougatcheff  seriously  angry.  Fortunately,  the  usurper  did 
not  hear,  or  pretended  not  to  hear,  the  misplaced  remark. 
The  horses  again  broke  into  a  gallop;  the  people  in  the 
streets  stood  still  and  made  obeisance.  Pougatcheff  bowed 
his  head  from  side  to  side.  In  about  a  minute  we  had  left 
the  village  behind  us  and  were  flying  along  over  the  smooth 
surface  of  the  road. 

One  can  easily  imagine  what  my  feelings  were  at  that 
moment.  In  a  few  hours  I  should  again  set  eyes  upon  her 
whom  I  had  already  considered  as  lost  to  me  for  ever.  I 
pictured  to  myself  the  moment  of  our  meeting.  ...  I 
thought  also  of  the  man  in  whose  hands  lay  my  fate,  and 
who,  by  a  strange  concourse  of  circumstances,  had  become 
mysteriously  connected  with  me.  I  remembered  the  thought- 
less cruelty  and  the  bloodthirsty  habits  of  him,  who  now 
constituted  himself  the  deliverer  of  my  beloved.  Pougat- 
cheff did  not  know  that  she  was  the  daughter  of  Captain 
Mironoff ;  the  exasperated  Shvabrin  might  reveal  everything 
to  him ;  it  was  also  possible  that  Pougatcheff  might  find  out 
the  truth  in  some  other  way.  .  .  .  Then  what  would  become 
of  Maria  Ivanovna  ?  A  shudder  passed  through  my  frame, 
and  my  hair  stood  on  end. 


Suddenly  Pougatcheff  interrupted  my  meditations,  by 
turning  to  me  with  the  question : 

"What  is  your  lordship  thinking  of?" 

"What  should  I  not  be  thinking  of,"  I  replied.  *'I  am 
an  officer  and  a  gentleman;  only  yesterday  I  was  fighting 
against  you,  and  now  to-day  I  am  riding  side  by  side  with 
you  in  the  same  carriage,  and  the  happiness  of  my  whole  life 
depends  upon  you." 

"  How  so  ?  "  asked  Pougatcheff.     "  Are  you  afraid  ?  " 

I  replied  that,  having  already  had  my  life  spared  by  him, 
I  hoped,  not  only  for  his  mercy,  but  even  for  his  assistance. 

"  And  you  are  right ;  by  God,  you  are  right ! "  said  the 
impostor.  "You  saw  that  my  fellows  looked  askant  at 
you ;  and  this  morning  the  old  man  persisted  in  his  state- 
ment that  you  were  a  spy,  and  that  it  was  necessary  that 
you  should  be  interrogated  by  means  of  torture  and  then 
hanged.  But  I  would  not  consent  to  it,"  he  added,  lower- 
ing his  voice,  so  that  Savelitch  and  the  Tartar  should  not 
be  able  to  hear  him,  "because  I  remembered  your  glass 
of  wine  and  hareskin  pelisse.  You  see  now  that  I  am 
not  such  a  bloodthirsty  creatuie  as  your  brethren  main- 

I  recalled  to  mind  the  capture  of  the  fortress  of  Bailogorsk 
but  I  did  not  think  it  advisable  to  contradict  him,  and  so  I 
made  no  reply. 

"  What  do  they  say  of  me  in  Orenburg  ?  "  asked  Pougat , 
cheff,  after  a  short  interval  of  silence. 

"They  say  that  it  will  be  no  easy  matter  to  get  the  upper 
hand  of  you ;  and  there  is  no  denying  that  you  have  made 
yourself  felt." 

The  face  of  the  impostor  betokened  how  much  his  vanity 
was  gratified  by  this  remark. 

"  Yes,"  said  he,  with  a  look  of  self-satisfaction,  "  I  wage 
war  to  some  purpose.     Do  you  people  in  Orenburg  know 

THE   captain's  DAUGHTER.  II9 

about  the  battle  of  Youzeiff  ?  ^  Forty  general  officers  killed, 
four  armies  taken  captive.  Do  you  think  the  King  of 
Prussia  could  do  as  well  as  that  ?  " 

The  boasting  of  the  brigand  appeared  to  me  to  be  some- 
what amusing. 

"What  do  you  think  about  it  yourself?"  I  said  to  him: 
*'  do  you  think  that  you  could  beat  Frederick  ?  " 

"  Fedor  Fedorovitch  ?  ^  And  why  not  ?  I  beat  your 
generals,  and  they  have  beaten  him.  My  arms  have  always 
been  successful  up  till  now.  But  only  wait  awhile,  you  will 
see  something  very  different  when  I  march  to  Moscow." 

^'And  do  you  intend  marching  to  Moscow?" 

The  impostor  reflected  for  a  moment  and  then  said  in  a 
low  voice : 

"  God  knows.  My  road  is  narrow ;  my  will  is  weak.  My 
followers  do  not  obey  me.  They  are  scoundrels.  I  must 
keep  a  sharp  look-out ;  at  the  first  reverse  they  will  save 
their  own  necks  at  the  expense  of  my  head." 

"That  is  quite  true,"  I  said  to  Pougatcheff.  "Would  it 
not  be  better  for  you  to  separate  yourself  from  them  in 
good  time,  and  throw  yourself  upon  the  mercy  of  the 
Empress  ?  "     , 

Pougatcheff  smiled  bitterly. 

"  No,"  replied  he  :  "  it  is  too  late  for  me  to  repent  now. 
There  would  be  no  pardon  for  me.  I  will  go  on  as  I  have 
begun.  Who  knows?  Perhaps  I  shall  be  successful. 
Grishka  Otrepieff  was  made  Czar  at  Moscow." 

"And  do  you  know  what  his  end  was?  He  was  flung 
out  of  a  window,  his  body  was  cut  to  pieces  and  burnt,  and 
then  his  ashes  were  placed  in  a  cannon  and  scattered  to  the 
winds ! " 

*'  Listen,"  said  Pougatcheff  with  a  certain  wild  inspiration. 

^  An  engagement  in  which  Pougatcheff  had  the  advantage. 

^  The  name  given  to  Frederick  the  Great  by  the  Russian  soldiers, 


"  I  will  tell  you  a  tale  which  was  told  to  me  in  my  childhood 
by  an  old  Calmuck.  '  The  eagle  once  said  to  the  crow : 
"  Tell  me,  crow,  why  is  it  that  you  live  in  this  bright  world 
for  three  hundred  years,  and  I  only  for  thirty-three  years  ?  " 
— "  Because,  Httle  father,"  replied  the  crow,  "  you  drink  live 
blood,  and  I  live  on  carrion." — The  eagle  reflected  for  a 
little  while  and  then  said :  "  Let  us  both  try  and  live  on  the 
same  food." — "  Good  !  agreed  ! "  The  eagle  and  the  crow 
flew  away.  Suddenly  they  caught  sight  of  a  fallen  horse, 
and  they  alighted  upon  it.  The  crow  began  to  pick  its 
flesh  and  found  it  very  good.  The  eagle  tasted  it  once, 
then  a  second  time,  then  shook  its  pinions  and  said  to  the 
crow :  "  No,  brother  crow ;  rather  than  live  on  carrion  for 
three  hundred  years,  I  would  prefer  to  drink  live  blood  but 
once,  and  trust  in  God  for  what  might  happen  afterwards  !  "  * 
What  do  you  think  of  the  Calmuck's  story  ?  " 

"  It  is  very  ingenious,"  I  replied.  "  But  to  live  by  murder 
and  robbery  is,  in  my  opinion,  nothing  else  than  living  on 

Pougatcheff"  looked  at  me  in  astonishment  and  made  no 
reply.  We  both  became  silent,  each  being  wrapped  in  his 
own  thoughts.  The  Tartar  began  to  hum  a  plaintive  song. 
Savelitch,  dozing,  swayed  from  side  to  side.  The  kibitka 
glided  along  rapidly  over  the  smooth  frozen  road.  .  .  .  Sud- 
denly I  caught  sight  of  a  little  village  on  the  steep  bank  of 
the  Yaik,  with  its  palisade  and  belfry,  and  about  a  quarter  of 
an  hour  afterwards  we  entered  the  fortress  of  Bailogorsk. 




THE  kibitka  drew  up  in  front  of  the  Commandant's 
house.  The  inhabitants  had  recognized  Pougatcheff's 
little  bell,  and  came  crowding  around  us.  '  Shvabrin  met  the 
impostor  at  the  foot  of  the  steps.  He  was  dressed  as  a 
Cossack,  and  had  allowed  his  beard  to  grow.  The  traitor 
helped  Pougatcheff  to  alight  from  the  kibitka^  expressing,  in 
obsequious  terms,  his  joy  and  zeal.  On  seeing  me,  he 
became  confused;  but  quickly  recovering  himself,  he 
stretched  out  his  hand  to  me,  saying : 

"  And  are  you  also  one  of  us  ?  You  should  have  been  so 
long  ago ! " 

I  turned  away  from  him  and  made  no  reply. 

My  heart  ached  when  we  entered  the  well-known  room, 
on  the  wall  of  which  still  hung  the  commission  of  the  late 
Commandant,  as  a  mournful  epitaph  of  the  past.  Pougat- 
cheff seated  himself  upon  the  same  sofa  on  which  Ivan 
Kouzmitch  was  accustomed  to  fall  asleep,  lulled  by  the 
scolding  of  his  wife.  Shvabrin  himself  brought  him  some 
brandy.  Pougatcheff  drank  a  glass,  and  said  to  him, 
pointing  to  me : 

"  Give  his  lordship  a  glass." 

Shvabrin  approached  me  with  his  tray,  but  I  turned  away 
from  him  a  second  time.  He  seemed  to  have  become  quite 
another  person.  With  his  usual  sagacity,  he  had  certainly 
perceived    that    Pougatcheff    was    dissatisfied    with    him. 


He  cowered  before  him,  and  glanced  at  me  with  dis- 

Pougatcheff  asked  some  questions  concerning  the  condi- 
tion of  the  fortress,  the  reports  referring  to  the  enemy's 
army,  and  the  Uke.  Then  suddenly  and  unexpectedly  he 
said  to  him : 

"  Tell  me,  my  friend,  who  is  this  young  girl  that  you  hold 
a  prisoner  here  ?     Show  her  to  me." 

Shvabrin  turned  as  pale  as  death. 

"  Czar,"  said  he,  in  a  trembling  voice  ..."  Czar,  she  is 
not  a  prisoner  .  .  .  she  is  ill  .  .  .  she  is  in  bed." 

"  Lead  me  to  "her,"  said  the  impostor,  rising  from  his 

Refusal  was  impossible.  Shvabrin  conducted  Pougatcheff 
to  Maria  Ivanovna's  room.     I  followed  behind  them. 

Shvabrin  stopped  upon  the  stairs. 

"  Czar,"  said  he :  "  you  may  demand  of  me  whatever  you 
please;  but  do  not  permit  a  stranger  to  enter  my  wife's 

I  shuddered. 

"  So  you  are  married  ! "  I  said  to  Shvabrin,  ready  to  tear 
him  to  pieces. 

"Silence!"  interrupted  Pougatcheff:  "that  is  my  busi- 
ness. And  you,"  he  continued,  turning  to  Shvabrin,  "  keep 
your  airs  and  graces  to  yourself:  whether  she  be  your  wife 
or  whether  she  be  not,  I  will  take  to  her  whomsoever  I 
please.     Your  lordship,  follow  me." 

At  the  door  of  the  room  Shvabrin  stopped  again,  and 
said  in  a  faltering  voice : 

"  Czar,  I  must  inform  you  that  she  is  in  a  high  fever,  and 
has  been  raving  incessantly  for  the  last  three  days." 

"  Open  the  door ! "  said  Pougatcheff. 

Shvabrin  began  to  search  in  his  pockets  and  then  said 
that  he  had  not  brought  the  key  with  him.     Pougatcheff 

THE  captain's  DAUGHTER.  1 23 

pushed  the  door  with  his  foot ;  the  lock  gave  way,  the  door 
opened,  and  we  entered. 

I  glanced  round  the  room — and  nearly  fainted  away. 
On  the  floor,  clad  in  a  ragged  peasant's  dress,  sat  Maria 
Ivanovna,  pale,  thin,  and  with  dishevelled  hair.  Before  her 
stood  a  pitcher  of  water,  covered  with  a  piece  of  bread. 
Seeing  me,  she  shuddered  and  uttered  a  piercing  cry.  What 
I  felt  at  that  moment  I  cannot  describe. 

Pougatcheff  looked  at  Shvabrin  and  aaid  with  a  sarcastic 
smile : 

"You  have  a  very  nice  hospital  here ! " 

Then  approaching  Maria  Ivanovna : 

"  Tell  me,  my  little  dove,  why  does  your  husband  punish 
you  in  this  manner?" 

"  My  husband  !"  repeated  she.  "  He  is  not  my  husband. 
I  will  never  be  his  wife  !  I  would  rather  die,  and  I  will  die, 
if  I  am  not  set  free." 

Pougatcheff  cast  a  threatening  glance  at  Shvabrin. 

*'  And  you  have  dared  to  deceive  me  ! "  he  said  to  him. 
"  Do  you  know,  scoundrel,  what  you  deserve  ?  " 

Shvabrm  fell  upon  his  knees.  ...  At  that  moment  con- 
tempt extinguished  within  me  all  feelings  of  hatred  and 
resentment.  I  looked  with  disgust  at  the  sight  of  a  noble- 
pan  grovelling  at  the  feet  of  a  runaway  Cossack. 

Pougatcheff  relented. 

"  I  forgive  you  this  time,"  he  said  to  Shvabrin  :  **but  bear 
n  mind  that  the  next  time  you  are  guilty  of  an  offence,  I 
ill  remember  this  one  also." 

Then  he  turned  to  Maria  Ivanovna  and  said  to  her 
dndly : 

*'  Go,  my  pretty  girl ;  I  give  you  your  liberty.  I  am  the 

Maria  Ivanovna  glanced  rapidly  at  him,  and  intuitively 
[ivined  that  before  her  stood  the  murderer  of  her  parents, 


124  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

She  covered  her  face  with  both  hands  and  fainted  away.  1 
hastened  towards  her;  but  at  that  moment  my  old  ac- 
quaintance, Palasha,  very  boldly  entered  the  room,  and 
began  to  attend  to  her  young  mistress.  Pougatcheff  quitted 
the  apartment,  and  we  all  three  entered  the  parlour. 

"Well,  your  lordship,"  said  Pougatcheff  smiling,  **we 
have  set  the  pretty  girl  free  !  What  do  you  say  to  sending 
for  the  pope  and  making  him  marry  his  niece  to  you  ?  If 
you  like,  I  will  act  as  father,  and  Shvabrin  shall  be  your  best 
man.  We  will  then  smoke  and  drink  and  make  ourselves 
merry  to  our  hearts'  content ! " 

What  I  feared  took  place.  Shvabrin,  hearing  Pougat- 
cheff's  proposal,  was  beside  himself  with  rage. 

"  Czar ! "  he  exclaimed,  in  a  transport  of  passion,  "  I  am 
guilty ;  I  have  lied  to  you ;  but  Grineff  is  deceiving  you 
also.  This  young  girl  is  not  the  pope's  niece :  she  is  the 
daughter  of  Ivan  Mironoff,  who  was  hanged  at  the  taking  of 
the  fortress." 

Pougatcheff  glanced  at  me  with  gleaming  eyes. 

**  What  does  this  mean  ?  "  he  asked  in  a  gloomy  tone. 

"Shvabrin  has  told  you  the  truth,"  I  replied  in  a  firm 

"  You  did  not  tell  me  that,"  replied  Pougatcheff,  whose 
face  had  become  clouded. 

**  Judge  of  the  matter  yourself,"  I  replied :  "  could  I,  in 
the  presence  of  your  people,  declare  that  she  was  the 
daughter  of  Mironoff?  They  would  have  torn  her  to 
pieces  !     Nothing  would  have  saved  her  ! " 

"  You  are  right,"  said  Pougatcheff  smiling.  '*  My  drunkards 
would  not  have  spared  the  poor  girl;  the  pope's  wife  did 
well  to  deceive  them." 

"  Listen,"  I  continued,  seeing  him  so  well  disposed ;  **  I 
know  not  what  to  call  you,  and  I  do  not  wish  to  know.  .  .  . 
3ut  God  is  my  witness  that  I  would  willingly  repay  you  with 


my  life  for  what  you  have  done  for  me.  But  do  not  demand 
of  me  anything  that  is  against  my  honour  and  my  Christian 
conscience.  You  are  my  benefactor.  End  as  you  have 
begun :  let  me  go  away  with  that  poor  orphan  wherever 
God  will  direct  us.  And  wherever  you  may  be,  and  what- 
ever may  happen  to  you,  we  will  pray  to  God  every  day  for 
the  salvation  of  your  soul.  .  .  ." 

Pougatcheff's  fierce  soul  seemed  touched. 
"  Be  it  as  you  wish  ! "  said  he.     "  Punish  thoroughly  or 
pardon  thoroughly :  that  is  my  way.     Take  your  beautiful 
one,  take  her  wherever  you  like,  and  may  God  grant  you 
jlove  and  counsel !" 

j  Then  he  turned  to  Shvabrin  and  ordered  him  to  give  me 
la  safe  conduct  for  all  barriers  and  fortresses  subjected  to 
his  authority.  Shvabrin,  completely  dumbfounded,  stood 
as  if  petrified.  Pougatcheff  then  went  off  to  inspect  the 
kbrtress.  Shvabrin  accompanied  him,  and  I  remained 
behind  under  the  pretext  of  making  preparations  for  my 

I  hastened  to  Maria's  room.     The  door  was  locked.     I 
"  Who  is  there  ?  "  asked  Palasha. 

I  called  out  my  name.  The  sweet  voice  of  Maria  Ivan- 
>vna  sounded  from  behind  the  door : 

"Wait  a  moment,  Peter  Andreitch.  I  am  changing  my 
Iress.  Go  to  Akoulina  Pamphilovna;  I  shall  be  there 

I  obeyed  and  made  my  way  to  the  house  of  Father 
Jerasim.  He  and  his  wife  came  forward  to  meet  me. 
avelitch  had  already  informed  them  of  what  had  happened. 
"You  are  welcome,  Peter  Andreitch,"  said  the  pope's 
fe.  "  God  has  ordained  that  we  should  meet  again. 
nd  how  are  you  ?  Not  a  day  has  passed  without  our  talk- 
g  about  you.     And  Maria  Ivanovna^  the  poor  little  4ove, 


what  has  she  not  suffered  while  you  have  been  away !  Bui 
tell  us,  little  father,  how  did  you  manage  to  arrange  matters 
with  Pougatcheff  ?  How  was  it  that  he  did  not  put  you  to 
death  ?     The  villain  be  thanked  for  that,  at  all  events  !  " 

"  Enough,    old   woman,"   interrupted    Father    Gerasim.  ■ 
"  Don't  babble  about  everything  that  you  know.     There  is  \ 
no  salvation  for  chatterers.     Come  in,  Peter  Andreitch,  I 
beg  of  you.  It  is  a  long,  long  time  since  we  saw  each  other." 

The  pope's  wife  set  before  me  everything  that  she  had  in 
the  house,  without  ceasing  to  chatter  away  for  a  single 
moment.  She  related  to  me  in  what  manner  Shvabrin  had 
compelled  them  to  deliver  Maria  Ivanovna  up  to  him ;  how 
the  poor  girl  wept  and  did  not  wish  to  be  parted  from  them ;  j 
how  she  had  kept  up  a  constant  communication  with  them 
by  means  of  Palashka^  (a  bold  girl  who  compelled  the 
orderly  himself  to  dance  to  her  pipe) ;  how  she  had  advised 
Maria  Ivanovna  to  write  a  letter  to  me,  and  so  forth. 

I  then,  in  my  turn,  briefly  related  to  them  my  story.  The 
pope  and  his  wife  made  the  sign  of  the  cross  on  hearing  that  | 
Pougatcheff  had  become  acquainted  with  their  deception. 

''The  power  of  the  Cross  defend  us  !"  ejaculated  Akou-i 
Una  Pamphilovna.  **  May  God  grant  that  the  cloud  will| 
pass  over.  Well,  well,  Alexei  Ivanitch,  you  are  a  very  nicel 
fellow  :  there  is  no  denying  that !  "  I 

At  that  moment  the  door  opened,  and  Maria  Ivanovnaf 
entered  the  room  with  a  smile  upon  her  pale  face.   She  had  ' 
doffed  her  peasant's  dress,  and  was  attired  as  before,  plainly 
and  becomingly. 

I  grasped  her  hand  and  for  some  time  could  not  utter  a' 
single  word.  We  were  both  silent  from  fulness  of  heart. 
Our  hosts  felt  that  their  presence  was  unnecessary  to  us, 
and  so  they  withdrew.     We  were  left  by  ourselves.     Every- 

Piminutive  of  Palasha» 


THE  captain's  DAUGHTER.  1 27 

thing  else  was  forgotten.  We  talked  and  talked  and  could 
not  say  enough  to  each  other.  Maria  related  to  me  all  that 
had  happened  to  her  since  the  capture  of  the  fortress ;  she 
described  to  me  all  the  horror  of  her  situation,  all  the  trials 
which  she  had  experienced  at  the  hands  of  the  detestable 
Shvabrin.  We  recalled  to  mind  the  happy  days  of  the  past, 
and  we  could  not  prevent  the  tears  coming  into  our  eyes.  At 
last  I  began  to  explain  to  her  my  project.  For  her  to  remain  in 
the  fortress,  subjected  to  PougatchefT  and  commanded  by 
Shvabrin,  was  impossible.  Neither  could  I  think  of  taking 
her  to  Orenburg,  just  then  undergoing  all  the  calamities  of 
a  siege.  She  had  not  a  single  relative  in  the  whole  world. 
I  proposed  to  her  that  she  should  seek  shelter  with  my 
parents.     She  hesitated  at  first :  my  father's  unfriendly  dis- 

rosition  towards  her  frightened  her.  I  made  her  mind  easy 
n  that  score.  I  knew  that  my  father  would  consider  him- 
self bound  in  honour  to  receive  into  his  house  the  daughter 
of  a  brave  and  deserving  soldier  who  had  lost  his  life  in  the 
service  of  his  country. 

"  Dear  Maria  Ivanovna,"  I  said  at  last :  "  I  look  upon 
ou  as  my  wife.  Strange  circumstances  have  united  us  to- 
ether  indissolubly ;  nothing  in  the  world  can  separate 

Maria  Ivanovna  Hstened  to  me  without  any  assumption 
f  affectation.  She  felt  that  her  fate  was  Hnked  with  mine. 
But  she  repeated  that  she  would  never  be  my  wife,  except 
vith  the  consent  of  my  parents.  I  did  not  contradict  her. 
•Ve  kissed  each  other  fervently  and  passionately,  and  in  this 
nanner  everything  was  resolved  upon  between  us. 

About  an  hour  afterwards,  the  orderly  brought  me  my  safe 
:onduct,  inscribed  with  Pougatcheff's  scrawl,  and  informed 
ne  that  his  master  wished  to  see  me.  I  found  him  ready  to 
et  out  on  his  road.  I  cannot  describe  what  I  felt  on  taking 
eave  of  this  terrible  man,  this  outcast,  so  villainously  cruel 

128      poushkin's  prose  tales. 

to  all  except  myself  alone.  But  why  should  I  not  tell  the 
truth?  At  that  moment  I  felt  drawn  towards  him  by 
a  powerful  sympathy.  I  ardently  wished  to  tear  him  away 
from  the  midst  of  the  scoundrels,  whom  he  commanded,  and 
save  his  head  while  there  was  yet  time.  Shvabrin,  and  the 
crowd  gathered  around  us,  prevented  me  from  giving  ex- 
pression to  all  that  filled  my  heart. 

We  parted  as  friends.  PougatchefF,  catching  sight  of 
Akoulina  Pamphilovna  among  the  crowd,  threatened  her 
with  his  finger  and  winked  significantly ;  then  he  seated 
himself  in  his  kibitka^  and  gave  orders  to  return  to  Berd  \ 
and  when  the  horses  started  off,  he  leaned  once  out  of  the 
carriage,  and  cried  out  to  me :  "  Farewell,  your  lordship  I 
Perhaps  we  shall  see  each  other  again  ! " 

We  did  indeed  see  each  other  again,  but  under  what  cir- 
cumstances ! 

Pougatcheff  was  gone.  I  stood  for  a  long  time  gazing 
across  the  white  steppe,  over  which  his  troika  ^  went  gliding 
rapidly.  The  crowd  dispersed.  Shvabrin  disappeared.  I 
returned  to  the  pope's  house.  Everything  was  ready  for 
our  departure;  I  did  not  wish  to  delay  any  longer.  Our 
luggage  had  already  been  deposited  in  the  Commandant's 
old  travelling  carriage.  The  horses  were  harnessed  in  a 
twinkling.  Maria  Ivanovna  went  to  pay  a  farewell  visit  to 
the  graves  of  her  parents,  who  were  buried  behind  the 
church.  I  wished  to  accompany  her,  but  she  begged  of  me  to 
let  her  go  alone.  After  a  few  minutes  she  returned  silently 
weeping.  The  carriage  was  ready.  Father  Gerasim  and 
his  wife  came  out  upon  the  steps.  Maria  Ivanovna,  Palasha 
and  I  took  our  places  inside  the  kibitka^  while  Savelitch 
seated  himself  in  the  front. 

"Farewell,    Maria   Ivanovna,  my  little   dove;    farewell^ 

^  An  open  vehicle  drawn  by  three  horses  yoked  abreast. 


Peter  Andreitch,  my  fine  falcon ! "  said  the  pope's  good 
wife.  "  A  safe  journey,  and  may  God  bless  you  both  and 
make  you  happy  ! " 

We  drove  off.  At  the  window  of  the  Commandant's 
house  I  perceived  Shvabrin  standing.  His  face  wore  an 
expression  of  gloomy  malignity.  I  did  not  wish  to  triumph 
over  a  defeated  enemy,  so  I  turned  my  eyes  the  other  way. 

At  last  we  passed  out  of  the  gate,  and  left  the  fortress  of 
Bailogorsk  behind  us  for  ever. 





UNITED  SO  unexpectedly  with  the  dear  girl,  about  whom 
I  was  so  terribly  uneasy  that  very  morning,  I  could 
scarcely  believe  the  evidence  of  my  senses,  and  imagined 
that  everything  that  had  happened  to  me  was  nothing  but 
an  empty  dream.  Maria  Ivanovna  gazed  thoughtfully,  now  at 
me,  now  at  the  road,  and  seemed  as  if  she  had  not  yet  suc- 
ceeded in  recovering  her  senses.  We  were  both  silent. 
Our  hearts  were  too  full  of  emotion.  The  time  passed 
almost  imperceptibly,  and  after  journeying  for  about  two 
hours,  we  reached  the  next  fortress,  which  was  also  subject 
to  Pougatcheff.  Here  we  changed  horses.  By  the  rapidity 
with  which  this  was  effected,  and  by  the  obliging  manner  of 
the  bearded  Cossack  who  had  been  appointed  Commandant 
by  Pougatcheff,  I  perceived  that,  thanks  to  the  gossip  of  our 
driver,  I  was  taken  for  a  favourite  of  their  master. 

We  continued  our  journey.  It  began  to  grow  dark.  We 
approached  a  small  town,  where,  according  to  the  bearded 
Commandant,  there  was  a  strong  detachment  on  its  way  to 
join  the  impostor.  We  were  stopped  by  the  sentries.  In 
answer  to  the  challenge  :  "  Who  goes  there  ?  "  our  driver 
rejolied  in  a  loud  voice :  "  The  Czar's  friend  with  his  little 

Suddenly  a  troop  of  hussars  surrounded  us,  uttering  the 
most  terrible  curses. 

"  Step  down,  friend  of  the  devil  ! "  said  a  moustached 

THE  captain's   DAUGHTER.  I3I 

sergeant-major.  "We  will  make  it  warm  for  you  and  your 
little  wife ! " 

I  got  out  of  the  kibitka  and  requested  to  be  brought 
before  their  commander.  On  seeing  my  officer's  uniform, 
the  soldiers  ceased  their  imprecations,  and  the  sergeant  con- 
ducted me  to  the  major. 

Savelitch  followed  me,  muttering  : 

"  So  much  for  your  being  a  friend  of  the  Czar  !  Out  of 
the  frying-pan  into  the  fire.  Lord  Almighty  !  how  is  all  this 
going  to  end  ?  " 

The  kibitka  followed  behind  us  at  a  slow  pace. 

In  about  five  minutes  we  arrived  at  a  small,  well-lighted 
house.  The  sergeant-major  left  me  under  a  guard  and 
entered  to  announce  me.  He  returned  immediately  and 
informed  me  that  his  Highness  had  no  time  to  receive  me, 
but  that  he  had  ordered  that  I  should  be  taken  to  prison, 
and  my  wife  conducted  into  his  presence. 

"  What  does  this  mean  ?  "  I  exclaimed  in  a  rage.  "  Has 
he  taken  leave  of  his  senses  ?  " 

*'  I  do  not  know,  your  lordship,"  replied  the  sergeant- 
major.  "  Only  his  Highness  has  ordered  that  your 
lordship  should  be  taken  to  prison,  and  her  ladyship 
conducted  into  his  presence,  your  lordship !  " 

I  dashed  up  the  steps.  The  sentinel  did  not  think  of  de- 
taining me,  and  I  made  my  way  straight  into  the  room,  where 
six  hussar  officers  were  playing  at  cards.  The  major  was 
deahng.  What  was  my  astonishment  when,  looking  at  him 
attentively,  I  recognized  Ivan  Ivanovitch  Zourin,  who  had 
once  beaten  me  at  play  in  the  Simbirsk  tavern. 

"  Is  it  possible  ?  "  I  exclaimed.  "  Ivan  Ivanovitch  1  Is 
it  really  you  ?  " 

'^  Zounds  !  Peter  Andreitch  !  What  chance  has  brought 
you  here  ?  Where  have  you  come  from  ?  How  is  it  with 
you,  brother  ?    Won't  you  join  in  a  game  of  cards  ?  " 



**  Thank  you,  but  I  would  much  rather  you  give  orders  foi 
quarters  to  be  assigned  to  me." 

"  What  sort  of  quarters  do  you  want  ?   Stay  with  me.** 

"  I  cannot :  I  am  not  alone." 

"  Well,  bring  your  comrade  with  you." 

"  I  have  no  comrade  with  me  ;  I  am  with  a — lady." 

**  A  lady  !  Where  did  you  pick  her  up  ?  Aha,  brother 
mine  ! " 

And  with  these  words,  Zourin  whistled  so  significantly 
that  all  the  others  burst  out  laughing,  and  I  felt  perfectly 

"  Well,"  continued  Zourin  :  "  let  it  be  so.  You  shall  have 
quarters.  But  it  is  a  pity  ....  We  should  have  had  one 
of  our  old  sprees  ....  I  say,  boy  !  Why  don't  you  bring 
in  Pougatcheff 's  lady  friend  ?  Or  is  she  obstinate  ?  Tell  her 
that  she  need  not  be  afraid,  that  the  gentleman  is  very  kind 
and  will  do  her  no  harm — then  bring  her  in  by  the  collar." 

"  What  do  you  mean  ?  "  said  I  to  Zourin.  "  What  lady- 
friend  of  Pougatcheff' s  are  you  talking  of?  It  is  the  daughter 
of  the  late  Captain  Mironoff.  I  have  released  her  from  cap- 
tivity, and  I  am  now  conducting  her  to  my  father's  country 
seat,  where  I  am  going  to  leave  her." 

"  What !  Was  it  you  then  who  was  announced  to  me  just 
now  ?  In  the  name  of  Heaven  !  what  does  all  this  mean  ?  " 

"  I  will  tell  you  later  on.  For  the  present,  I  beg  of  you  to 
set  at  ease  the  mind  of  this  poor  girl,  who  has  been  terribly 
frightened  by  your  hussars." 

Zourin  immediately  issued  the  necessary  orders.  He  went 
out  himself  into  the  street  to  apologize  to  Maria  Ivanovna 
for  the  involuntary  misunderstanding,  and  ordered  the  ser- 
geant-major to  conduct  her  to  the  best  lodging  in  the  town. 
I  remained  to  spend  the  night  with  him. 

We  had  supper,  and  when  we  two  were  left  together,  I  re- 
lated to  him  ray  adventures.     Zourin  listened  to  me  with 

THE  captain's  DAUGHTER.  1 33 

the  greatest  attention.  When  I  had  finished,  he  shook  his 
head,  and  said : 

"That  is  all  very  well,  brother;  but  there  is  one  thing 
which  is  not  so ;  why  the  devil  do  you  want  to  get  married  ? 
As  an  officer  and  a  man  of  honour,  I  do  not  wish  to  deceive 
you;  but,  believe  me,  marriage  is  all  nonsense.  Why 
should  you  saddle  yourself  with  a  wife  and  be  compelled  to 
dandle  children  ?  Scout  the  idea.  Listen  to  me  :  shake  off 
this  Captain's  daughter.  I  have  cleared  the  road  to  Sim- 
birsk, and  it  is  quite  safe.  Send  her  to-morrow  by  herself  to 
your  parents,  and  you  remain  with  my  detachment.  There 
is  no  need  for  you  to  return  to  Orenburg.  If  you  should 
again  fall  into  the  hands  of  the  rebels,  you  may  not  escape 
from  them  so  easily  a  second  time.  In  this  way  your  love 
folly  will  die  a  natural  death,  and  everything  will  end 

Although  I  did  not  altogether  agree  with  him,  yet  I  felt 
that  duty  and  honour  demanded  my  presence  in  the  army  of 
the  Empress.  I  resolved  to  follow  Zourin's  advice  :  to  send 
Maria  Ivanovna  to  my  father's  estate,  and  to  remain  with  his 

Savelitch  came  in  to  help  me  to  undress ;  I  told  him  that 
he  was  to  get  ready  the  next  day  to  accompany  Maria 
Ivanovna  on  her  journey.     He  began  to  make  excuses. 

"What  do  you  say,  my  lord?  How  can  I  leave  you? 
W\io  will  look  after  you  ?    What  will  your  parents  say  ?  " 

Knowing  the  obstinate  disposition  of  my  follower,  I 
resolved  to  get  round  him  by  wheedling  and  coaxing  him. 

*'  My  dear  friend,  Arkhip  Savelitch  ! "  I  said  to  him  :  "  do 
not  refuse  me;  be  my  benefactor.  I  do  not  require  a 
servant  here,  and  I  should  not  feel  easy  if  Maria  Ivanovna 
were  to  set  out  on  her  journey  without  you.  By  serving  her 
you  will  be  serving  me,  for  I  am  firmly  resolved  to  marry  her, 
as  soon  as  circumstances  will  permit." 

134  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

Here  Savelitch  clasped  his  hands  with  an  indescribable 
look  of  astonishment. 

"  To  marry  ! "  he  repeated  :  "  the  child  wants  to  marry  ! 
But  what  will  your  father  say  ?  And  your  mother,  what  will 
she  think  ?  " 

**  They  will  give  their  consent,  without  a  doubt,  when  they 
know  Maria  Ivanovna,"  I  repUed.  *'  I  count  upon  you. 
My  father  and  mother  have  great  confidence  in  you ;  you 
will  therefore  intercede  for  us,  won't  you?" 

The  old  man  was  touched. 

**  Oh,  my  father,  Peter  Andreitch  ! "  he  replied,  "  although 
you  are  thinking  of  getting  married  a  little  too  early,  yet 
Maria  Ivanovna  is  such  a  good  young  lady,  that  it  would  be 
a  pity  to  let  the  opportunity  escape.  I  will  do  as  you  wish. 
I  will  accompany  her,  the  angel,  and  I  will  humbly  say 
to  your  parents,  that  such  a  bride  does  not  need  a 

I  thanked  Savelitch,  and  then  lay  down  to  sleep  in  the 
same  room  with  Zourin.  Feeling  very  much  excited,  I 
began  to  chatter.  At  first  Zourin  listened  to  my  remarks 
very  willingly ;  but  little  by  little  his  words  became  rarer 
and  more  disconnected,  and  at  last,  instead  of  replying  to 
one  of  my  questions,  he  began  to  snore.  I  stopped  talking 
and  soon  followed  his  example. 

The  next  morning  I  betook  myself  to  Maria  Ivanovna. 
I  communicated  to  her  my  plans.  She  recognized  the 
reasonableness  of  them,  and  immediately  agreed  to  carry 
them  out.  Zourin's  detachment  was  to  leave  the  town  that 
day.  There  was  no  time  to  be  lost.  I  at  once  took  leave 
of  Maria  Ivanovna,  confiding  her  to  the  care  of  Savelitch, 
and  giving  her  a  letter  to  my  parents. 

Maria  burst  into  tears. 

"  Farewell,  Peter  Andreitch,"  said  she  in  a  gentle  voice. 
"  God  alone  knows  whether  we  shall  ever  see  each  other 


THE  captain's  DAUGHTER.  1 35 

again  or  not ;  but  I  will  never  forget  you ;  till  my  dying  day 
you  alone  shall  live  in  my  heart !  " 

I  was  unable  to  reply.  There  was  a  crowd  of  people 
around  us,  and  I  did  not  wish  to  give  way  to  my  feelings 
before  them.  At  last  she  departed.  I  returned  to  Zourin, 
silent  and  depressed.  He  endeavoured  to  cheer  me  up, 
and  I  tried  to  divert  my  thoughts;  we  spent  the  day  in 
noisy  mirth,  and  in  the  evening  we  set  out  on  our  march. 

It  was  now  near  the  end  of  February.  The  winter,  which 
had  rendered  all  military  movements  extremely  difficult, 
was  drawing  to  its  close,  and  our  generals  began  to  make 
preparations  for  combined  action.  Pougatcheff  was  still 
under  the  walls  of  Orenburg,  but  our  divisions  united  and 
began  to  close  in  from  every  side  upon  the  rebel  camp. 
On  the  appearance  of  our  troops,  the  revolted  villages 
returned  to  their  allegiance;  the  rebel  bands  everywhere 
retreated  before  us,  and  everything  gave  promise  of  a 
speedy  and  successful  termination  to  the  campaign. 

Soon  afterwards  Prince  Golitzin  defeated  Pougatcheff 
under  the  walls  of  the  fortress  of  Tatischtscheff,  routed  his 
troops,  relieved  Orenburg,  and  to  all  appearances  seemed 
to  have  given  the  final  and  decisive  blow  to  the  rebellion. 
Zourin  was  sent  at  this  time  against  a  band  of  rebellious 
Bashkirs,  who,  however,  dispersed  before  we  were  able  to 
come  up  with  them.  The  spring  found  us  in  a  little  Tartar 
village.  The  rivers  overflowed  their  banks,  and  the  roads 
became  impassable.  We  consoled  ourselves  for  our  in- 
action with  the  thought  that  there  would  soon  be  an  end  to 
this  tedious  petty  warfare  with  brigands  and  savages. 

But  Pougatcheff  was  not  yet  taken.  He  soon  made  his 
appearance  in  the  manufacturing  districts  of  Siberia,  where 
he  collected  new  bands  of  followers  and  once  more  com- 
menced his  marauding  expeditions.  Reports  of  fresh 
successes  on  his  part  were  soon  in  circulation.     We  heard 


of  the  destruction  of  several  Siberian  fortresses.  Then 
came  the  news  of  the  capture  of  Kazan,  and  the  march  of 
the  impostor  to  Moscow,  which  greatly  disturbed  the  leaders 
of  the  army,  who  had  fondly  imagined  that  the  power  of 
the  despised  rebel  had  been  completely  broken.  Zourin 
received  orders  to  cross  the  Volga. 

I  will  not  describe  our  march  and  the  conclusion  of  the 
war.  I  will  only  say  that  the  campaign  was  as  calamitous 
as  it  possibly  could  be.  Law  and  order  came  to  an  end 
everywhere,  and  the  land-holders  concealed  themselves  in 
the  woods.  Bands  of  robbers  scoured  the  country  in  all 
directions;  the  commanders  of  isolated  detachments 
punished  and  pardoned  as  they  pleased ;  and  the  condition 
of  the  extensive  territory  in  which  the  conflagration  raged, 
was  terrible.  .  .  .  Heaven  grant  that  we  may  never  see  such 
a  senseless  and  merciless  revolt  again  ! 

Pougatcheff  took  to  flight,  pursued  by  Ivan  Ivanovitch 
Michelson.  We  soon  heard  of  his  complete  overthrow. 
At  last  Zourin  received  news  of  the  capture  of  the  impostor, 
and,  at  the  same  time,  orders  to  halt.  The  war  was  ended. 
At  last  it  was  possible  for  me  to  return  to  my  parents.  The 
thought  of  embracing  them,  and  of  seeing  Maria  Ivanovna 
again,  of  whom  I  had  received  no  information,  filled  me 
with  delight.  I  danced  about  like  a  child.  Zourin  laughed 
and  said  with  a  shrug  of  his  shoulders  : 

'*  No  good  will  come  of  it !  If  you  get  married,  you  are 

In  the  meantime  a  strange  feeling  poisoned  my  joy  :  the 
thought  of  that  evil-doer,  covered  with  the  blood  of  so  many 
innocent  victims,  and  of  the  punishment  that  awaited  him, 
troubled  me  involuntarily. 

"  Emelia,  Emelia  ! "  ^    I   said   to  myself  with  vexation, 

*  Diminutive  of  Emelian. 

THE  captain's   DAUGHTER.  137 

"why  did  you  not  dash  yourself  against  the  bayonets,  or 
fall  beneath  the  bullets  ?  That  was  the  best  thing  you  could 
have  done."  ^ 

And  how  could  I  feel  otherwise  ?  The  thought  of  him 
was  inseparably  connected  with  the  thought  of  the  mercy 
which  he  had  shown  to  me  in  one  of  the  most  terrible 
moments  of  my  life,  and  with  the  deliverance  of  my  bride 
from  the  hands  of  the  detested  Shvabrin. 

Zourin  granted  me  leave  of  absence.  In  a  few  days' 
time  I  should  again  be  in  the  midst  of  my  family,  and 
should  once  again  set  eyes  upon  the  face  of  my  Maria 
Ivanovna.  .  .  .  Suddenly  an  unexpected  storm  burst  upon 

On  the  day  of  my  departure,  and  at  the  very  moment 
when  I  was  preparing  to  set  out,  Zourin  came  to  my  hut, 
holding  in  his  hand  a  paper,  and  looking  exceedingly 
troubled.  A  pang  went  through  my  heart.  I  felt  alarmed, 
without  knowing  why.  He  sent  my  servant  out  of  the 
room,  and  said  that  he  had  something  to  tell  me. 

"What  is  it?"  I  asked  with  uneasiness. 

"  Something  rather  disagreeable,"  replied  he,  giving  me 
the  paper.     "  Read  what  I  have  just  received." 

I  read  it :  it  was  a  secret  order  to  all  the  commanders  of 
detachments  to  arrest  me  wherever  I  might  be  found,  and 
to  send  me  without  delay  under  a  strong  guard  to  Kazan, 
to  appear  before  the  Commission  instituted  for  the  trial  of 

The  paper  nearly  fell  from  my  hands. 

"  There  is  no  help  for  it,"  said  Zourin,  "  my  duty  is  to 
obey  orders.     Probably  the  report  of  your  intimacy  with 

^  After  having  advanced  to  the  gates  of  Moscow,  Pougatcheff  was 
defeated,  and  being  afterwards  sold  by  his  accomplices  for  100,000 
roubles,  he  was  imprisoned  in  an  iron  cage  and  carried  to  Moscow, 
where  he  was  executed  in  the  year  1775. 


Pougatcheff  has  in  some  way  reached  the  ears  of  the 
authorities.  I  hope  that  the  affair  will  have  no  serious 
consequences,  and  that  you  will  be  able  to  justify  yourself 
before  the  Commission.  Keep  up  your  spirits  and  set  out 
at  once." 

My  conscience  was  clear,  and  I  did  not  fear  having  to 
appear  before  the  tribunal ;  but  the  thought  that  the  hour 
of  my  meeting  with  Maria  might  be  deferred  for  several 
months,  filled  me  with  misgivings. 

The  telega  ^  was  ready.  Zourin  took  a  friendly  leave  of  me, 
and  I  took  my  place  in  the  vehicle.  Two  hussars  with 
drawn  swords  seated  themselves,  one  on  each  side  of  me, 
and  we  set  out  for  our  destination. 

*  An  open  vehicle  without  springs. 




I  FELT  convinced  that  the  cause  of  my  arrest  was  my  ab- 
senting myself  from  Orenburg  without  leave.  I  could 
easily  justify  myself  on  that  score :  for  sallying  out  against  the 
enemy  had  not  only  not  been  prohibited,  but  had  even  been 
encouraged.  I  might  be  accused  of  undue  rashness  instead 
of  disobedience  of  orders.  But  my  friendly  intercourse  with 
Pougatcheff  could  be  proved  by  several  witnesses,  and  could 
not  but  at  least  appear  very  suspicious.  During  the  whole  of 
the  journey  I  thought  of  the  examination  that  awaited  me, 
and  mentally  prepared  the  answers  that  I  should  make.  I 
resolved  to  tell  the  plain  unvarnished  truth  before  the  court, 
feeling  convinced  that  this  was  the  simplest  and,  at  the  same 
time,  the  surest  way  of  justifying  myself. 

I  arrived  at  Kazan — the  town  had  been  plundered  and  set 
on  fire.  In  the  streets,  instead  of  houses,  there  were  to  be 
seen  heaps  of  burnt  stones,  and  blackened  walls  without 
roofs  or  windows.  Such  were  the  traces  left  by  Pougatcheff ! 
I  was  conducted  to  the  fortress  which  had  escaped  the 
ravages  of  tlie  fire.  The  hussars  delivered  me  over  to  the 
officer  of  the  guard.  The  latter  ordered  a  blacksmith  to  be 
sent  for.  Chains  were  placed  round  my  feet  and  fastened 
together.  Then  I  was  taken  to  the  prison  and  left  alone  in 
a  dark  and  narrow  dungeon,  with  four  blank  walls  and  a  small 
window  protected  by  iron  gratings. 

Such  a  beginning  boded  no  good  to  me.     For  all  that,  I 

I40      poushkin's  prose  tales. 

did  not  lose  hope  nor  courage.  I  had  recourse  to  the  con- 
solation of  all  those  in  affliction,  and  after  having  tasted  for 
the  first  time  the  sweet  comforting  of  prayer  poured  out  from 
a  pure  but  sorrow-stricken  heart,  I  went  oflf  into  a  calm 
sleep,  without  thinking  of  what  might  happen  to  me. 

The  next  morning  the  gaoler  awoke  me  with  the  an- 
nouncement that  I  was  to  appear  before  the  Commission. 
Two  soldiers  conducted  me  through  a  courtyard  to  the 
Commandant's  house :  they  stopped  in  the  ante-room  and 
allowed  me  to  enter  the  inner  room  by  myself. 

I  found  myself  in  a  good-sized  apartment.  At  the  table, 
which  was  covered  with  papers,  sat  two  men :  an  elderly 
general,  of  a  cold  and  stem  aspect,  and  a  young  captain  of 
the  Guards,  of  about  twenty-eight  years  of  age,  and  of  very 
agreeable  and  affable  appearance.  Near  the  window,  at 
a  separate  table,  sat  the  secretary,  with  a  pen  behind  his  ear, 
and  bending  over  his  paper,  ready  to  write  down  my  depo- 

The  examination  began.  I  was  asked  my  name  and  pro- 
fession. The  General  inquired  if  I  was  the  son  of  Andrei 
Petrovitch  Grineff,  and  on  my  replying  in  the  affirmative,  he 
exclaimed  in  a  stem  tone  : 

"It  is  a  pity  that  such  an  honourable  man  should  have 
such  an  unworthy  son  ! " 

I  calmly  replied  that  whatever  were  the  accusations  against 
me,  I  hoped  to  be  able  to  refute  them  by  the  candid  avowal 
of  the  tmth. 

My  assurance  did  not  please  him.  '  ^ 

"  You  are  very  audacious,  my  friend,"  said  he,  frowning : 
"  but  we  have  dealt  with  others  like  you." 

Then  the  young  officer  asked  me  under  what  circum- 
stances and  at  what  time  I  had  entered  Pougatcheff's  ser- 
vice, and  in  what  affairs  I  had  been  employed  by  him. 

I  replied  indignantly,  that,  as  an  officer  and  a  nobleman. 

THE  captain's  DAUGHTER.  I4I 

I  could  never  have  entered  Pougatcheflf's  service,  and  could 
never  have  received  any  commission  from  him  whatever. 

"  How  comes  it  then,"  continued  the  interrogator,  "  that 
the  nobleman  and  officer  was  the  only  one  spared  by  the  im- 
postor, while  all  his  comrades  were  cruelly  murdered  ?  How 
comes  it  that  this  same  officer  and  nobleman  could  revel 
with  the  rebellious  scoundrels,  and  receive  from  the  leader 
of  the  villains  presents,  consisting  of  a  pelisse,  a  horse,  and 
half  a  rouble  ?  Whence  came  such  strange  friendship,  and 
I  upon  what  does  it  rest,  if  not  upon  treason,  or  at  least  upon 
abominable  and  unpardonable  cowardice  ?  '* 

I  was  deeply  offended  by  the  words  of  the  officer  of  the 
Guards,  and  I  began  to  defend  myself  with  great  warmth. 

related  how  my  acquaintance  with  Pougatcheff  began 
upon  the  steppe  during  a  snow-storm,  how  he  had  recog- 
nized me  at  the  capture  of  the  fortress  of  Bailogorsk  and 
spared  my  life.  I  admitted  that  I  had  received  a  pelisse 
and  a  horse  from  the  impostor,  but  that  I  had  defended  the 
fortress  of  Bailogorsk  against  the  rebels  to  the  last  extremity. 
In  conclusion  I  appealed  to  my  General,  who  could  bear 
witness  to  my  zeal  during  the  disastrous  siege  of  Orenburg. 

The  stern  old  man  took  up  from  the  table  an  open  letter 
and  began  to  read  it  aloud  : 

"  In  reply  to  your  Excellency's  inquiry  respecting  Ensign 
Grineff,  who  is  charged  with  being  implicated  in  the  present 
nsurrection  and  with  entering  into  communication  with  the 
leader  of  the  robbers,  contrary  to  the  rules  of  the  service 
and  the  oath  of  allegiance,  I  have  the  honour  to  report  that 
;he  said  Ensign  Grineff  formed  part  of  the  garrison  in  Oren- 
burg from  the  beginning  of  October  1773  to  the  twenty- 
bur  th  of  February  of  the  present  year,  on  which  date 
le  quitted  the  town,  and  since  that  time  he  has  not  made 
lis  appearance  again.  We  have  heard  from  some  deserters 
hat  he  was  in  Pougatcheff 's  camp,  and  that  he  accompanied 


him  to  the  fortress  of  Bailogorsk,  where  he  had  formerly 
been  garrisoned.  With  respect  to  his  conduct,  I  can 
only " 

Here  the  General  interrupted  his  reading  and  said  to  me 
harshly : 

"What  do  you  say  now  by  way  of  justification?" 

I  was  about  to  continue  as  I  began  and  explain  the  state 
of  affairs  between  myself  and  Maria  Ivanovna  as  frankly  as 
all  the  rest,  but  suddenly  I  felt  an  invincible  disgust  at  the 
thought  of  doing  so.  It  occurred  to  my  mind,  that  if  I 
mentioned  her  name,  the  Commission  would  summon  her 
to  appear,  and  the  thought  of  connecting  her  name  with  the 
vile  doings  of  hardened  villains,  and  of  herself  being  con- 
fronted with  them — this  terrible  idea  produced  such  an  im- 
pression upon  me,  that  I  became  confused  and  maintained 

My  judges,  who  seemed  at  first  to  have  listened  to 
my  answers  with  a  certain  amount  of  good-will,  were  once 
more  prejudiced  against  me  on  perceiving  my  confusion. 
The  officer  of  the  Guards  demanded  that  I  should  be  con- 
fronted with  my  principal  accuser.  The  General  ordered 
that  the  "rascal  of  yesterday"  should  be  summoned.  I 
turned  round  quickly  towards  the  door,  to  await  the  appear- 
ance of  my  accuser.  After  a  few  moments  I  heard  the 
clanking  of  chains,  the  door  opened,  and — Shvabrin  entered 
the  room.  I  was  astonished  at  the  change  in  his  appear- 
ance. He  was  terribly  thin  and  pale.  His  hair,  but  a  short 
time  ago  as  black  as  pitch,  was  now  quite  grey ;  his  long 
beard  was  unkempt.  He  repeated  all  his  accusations  in 
a  weak  but  determined  voice.  According  to  his  account,  I 
had  been  sent  by  Pougatcheff  to  Orenburg  as  a  spy ;  every 
day  I  used  to  ride  out  to  the  advanced  posts,  in  order 
to  transmit  written  information  of  all  that  took  place  within 
the  town  ;  that  at  last  I  had  gone  quite  over  to  the  side  of 

THE  captain's  DAUGHTER.  I43 

the  usurper  and  had  accompanied  him  from  fortress  to  for. 
tress,  endeavouring  in  every  way  to  injure  my  companions 
in  crime,  in  order  to  occupy  their  places  and  profit  the 
better  by  the  rewards  of  the  impostor. 

I  listened  to  him  in  silence,  and  I  rejoiced  on  account  of  one 
thing  :  the  name  of  Maria  was  not  mentioned  by  the  scoun- 
drel, whether  it  was  that  his  self-love  could  not  bear  the 
thought  of  one  who  had  rejected  him  with  contempt,  or  that 
within  his  heart  there  was  a  spark  of  that  self-same  feeling 
which  had  induced  me  to  remain  silent.  Whatever  it  was, 
the  name  of  the  daughter  of  the  Commandant  of  Bailogorsk 
was  not  pronounced  in  the  presence  of  the  Commission.  I 
became  still  more  confirmed  in  my  resolution,  and  when  the 
judges  asked  me  what  I  had  to  say  in  answer  to  Shvabrin's 
evidence,  I  replied  that  I  still  stood  by  my  first  statement  and 
that  I  had  nothing  else  to  add  in  justification  of  myself. 

The  General  ordered  us  to  be  led  away.  We  quitted  the 
room  together.  I  looked  calmly  at  Shvabrin,  but  did  not 
say  a  word  to  him.  He  looked  at  me  with  a  malicious  smile, 
lifted  up  hfs  fetters  and  passed  out  quickly  in  front  of  me. 
I  was  conducted  back  to  prison,  and  was  not  compelled  to 
undergo  a  second  examination. 

I  was  not  a  witness  of  all  that  now  remains  for  me  to  im- 
part to  the  reader ;  but  I  have  heard  it  related  so  often,  that 
the  most  minute  details  are  indelibly  engraven  upon  my 
memory,  and  it  seems  to  me  as  if  I  had  taken  a  part  in  them 

Maria  Ivanovna  was  received  by  my  parents  with  that 
sincere  kindness  which  distinguished  people  in  the  olden 
time.  They  regarded  it  as  a  favour  from  God  that  the 
opportunity  was  afforded  them  of  sheltering  and  consoling 
the  poor  orphan.  They  soon  became  sincerely  attached  to 
her,  because  it  was  impossible  to  know  her  and  not  to  love 
her.     My  love  for  her  no  longer  appeared  mere  folly  to  my 

144  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

father,  and  my  mother  had  one  wish  only,  that  her  Petei 
should  marry  the  pretty  Captain's  daughter. 

The  news  of  my  arrest  filled  all  my  family  with  consterna- 
tion. Maria  Ivanovna  had  related  so  simply  to  my  parents 
my  strange  acquaintance  with  Pougatcheff,  that  not  only  had 
they  felt  quite  easy  about  the  matter,  but  had  often  been 
obliged  to  laugh  heartily  at  the  whole  story.  My  father 
would  not  believe  that  I  could  be  implicated  in  an  infamous 
rebellion,  the  aim  of  which  was  the  destruction  of  the  throne 
and  the  extermination  of  the  nobles.  He  questioned  Save- 
litch  severely.  My  retainer  did  not  deny  that  I  had  been 
the  guest  of  Pougatcheff,  and  that  the  villain  had  acted  very 
generously  towards  me,  but  he  affirmed  with  a  solemn  oath 
that  he  had  never  heard  a  word  about  treason.  My  old 
parents  became  easier  in  mind,  and  waited  impatiently  for 
more  favourable  news.  Maria  Ivanovna,  however,  was  in  a 
state  of  great  agitation,  but  she  kept  silent,  as  she  was 
modest  and  prudent  in  the  highest  degree. 

Several  weeks  passed.  .  .  .  Then  my  father  unexpectedly 
received  from  St.  Petersburg  a   letter   from   our  relative, 

Prince  B .     The  letter  was  about  me.     After  the  usual 

compliments,  he  informed  him  that  the  suspicions  which 
had  been  raised  concerning  my  participation  in  the  plots 
of  the  rebels,  had  unfortunately  been  shown  to  be  only  too 
well  founded ;  that  capital  punishment  would  have  been 
meted  out  to  me,  but  that  the  Empress^  in  consideration  of 
the  faithful  services  and  the  grey  hairs  of  my  father,  had  ] 
resolved  to  be  gracious  towards  his  criminal  son,  and, 
instead  of  condemning  him  to  suffer  an  ignominious  death, 
had  ordered  that  he  should  be  sent  to  the  most  remote* 
part  of  Siberia  for  the  rest  of  his  life. 

This  unexpected  blow  nearly  killed  my  father.  He  lost 
his  usual  firmness,  and  his  grief,  usually  silent,  found  vent 
in  bitter  complaints. 

THE  captain's  DAUGHTER.  I45 

"What!"  he  cried,  as  if  beside  himself:  *'my  son  has 
taken  part  in  Pougatcheff's  plots !  God  of  Justice,  that  I 
should  live  to  see  this !  The  Empress  spares  his  life ! 
Does  that  make  it  any  better  for  me  ?  It  is  not  death  at 
the  hands  of  the  executioner  that  is  so  terrible :  my  great- 
grandfather died  upon  the  scaffold  for  the  defence  of  that 
which  his  conscience  regarded  as  sacred ;  ^  my  father  suf- 
fered with  Volinsky  and  Khrouschtcheff.'  But  that  a 
nobleman  should  be  false  to  his  oath,  should  associate  with 
i  robbers,  with  murderers  and  with  runaway  slaves  !  .  .  . 
Shame  and  disgrace  upon  our  race  ! " 

Frightened  by  his  despair,  my  mother  dared  not  weep  in 
his  presence ;  she  endeavoured  to  console  him  by  speaking 
of  the  uncertainty  of  reports,  and  the  little  dependency  to 
be  placed  upon  the  opinions  of  other  people.  But  my 
father  was  inconsolable. 

Maria  Ivanovna  suffered  more  than  anybody.  Being 
firmly  convinced  that  I  could  have  justified  myself  if  I  had 
only  wished  to  do  so,  she  guessed  the  reason  of  my  silence, 
and  considered  herself  the  cause  of  my  misfortune.  She 
hid  from  everyone  her  tears  and  sufferings,  and  was  in- 
cessantly thinking  of  the  means  by  which  I  might  be  saved. 

One  evening  my  father  was  seated  upon  the  sofa  turning 
over  the  leaves  of  the  "  Court  Calendar,"  but  his  thoughts 
were  far  away,  and  the  reading  of  the  book  failed  to  produce 
upon  him  its  usual  effect.  He  was  whistling  an  old  march. 
My  mother  was  silently  knitting  a  woollen  waistcoat,  and 
from  time  to  time  her  tears  ran  down  upon  her  work.  All 
at  once,  Maria  Ivanovna,  who  was  also  at  work  in  the  same 

One  of  Poushkin's  ancestors  was  condemned  to  death  by  Peter  the 

^  Chiefs  of  the  Russian  party  against  Biren,  the  unscrupulous  German 
'avourite  of  the  Empress  Anne.  They  were  put  to  death  under  circura. 
tances  of  great  cruelty. 


146  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

room,  declared  that  it  was  absolutely  necessary  that  she 
should  go  to  St.  Petersburg,  and  she  begged  of  my  parents 
to  furnish  her  with  the  means  of  doing  so.  My  mother  was 
very  much  hurt  at  this  resolution. 

"  Why  do  you  wish  to  go  to  St.  Petersburg  ? "  said  she. 
"  Is  it  possible,  Maria  Ivanovna,  that  you  want  to  forsake 
us  also  ?  " 

Maria  replied  that  her  fate  depended  upon  this  journey, 
that  she  was  going  to  seek  help  and  protection  from  power 
ful  persons,  as  the  daughter  of  a  man  who  had  fallen  a 
victim  to  his  fidelity. 

My  father  lowered  his  head  j  every  word  that  recalled 
mind  the  supposed  crime  of  his  son,  was  painful  to  him,  and 
seemed  like  a  bitter  reproach. 

"  Go,  my  child,"  he  said  to  her  at  last  with  a  sigh  j  "  we 
do  not  wish  to  stand  in  the  way  of  your  happiness.  May 
God  give  you  an  honest  man  for  a  husband,  and  not  an 
infamous  traitor." 

He  rose  and  left  the  room. 

Maria  Ivanovna,  left  alone  with  my  mother,  confided  to 
her  a  part  of  her  plan.  My  mother,  with  tears  in  her  eyes, 
embraced  her  and  prayed  to  God  that  her  undertaking 
might  be  crowned  with  success.  Maria  Ivanovna  made  all 
her  preparations,  and  a  few  days  afterwards  she  set  out  on 
her  road  with  the  faithful  Palasha  and  the  equally  faithful 
Savehtch,  who,  forcibly  separated  from  me,  consoled  himself 
at  least  with  the  thought  that  he  was  serving  my  betrothed. 
Maria  Ivanovna  arrived  safely  at  Sofia,  and  learning  that 
the  Court  was  at  that  time  at  Tsarskoe  Selo,  she  resolved  to 
stop  there.  At  the  post-house,  a  small  recess  behind  a 
partition  was  assigned  to  her.  The  postmaster's  wife  came 
immediately  to  chat  with  her,  and  she  informed  Maria  that 
she  was  niece  to  one  of  the  stove-lighters  of  the  Court,  and 
she  initiated  her  into  all  the  mysteries  of  Court  life.     She 


told  her  at  what  hour  the  Empress  usually  got  up,  when  she 
took  coffee,  and  when  she  went  out  for  a  walk ;  what  great 
lords  were  then  with  her ;  what  she  had  deigned  to  say  the 
day  before  at  table,  and  whom  she  had  received  in  the 
evening.  In  a  word,  the  conversation  of  Anna  Vlassievna 
was  as  good  as  a  volume  of  historical  memoirs,  and  would 
be  very  precious  to  the  present  generation. 

Maria  Ivanovna  listened  to  her  with  great  attention. 
They  went  together  into  the  palace  garden.  Anna  Vlassievna 
related  the  history  of  every  alley  and  of  every  little  bridge, 
and  after  seeing  all  that  they  wished  to  see,  they  returned 
to  the  post-house,  highly  satisfied  with  each  other. 

The  next  day,  early  in  the  morning,  Maria  Ivanovna 
awoke,  dressed  herself,  and  quietly  betook  herself  to  the 
palace  garden.  It  was  a  lovely  morning;  the  sun  was 
gilding  the  tops  of  the  linden  trees,  already  turning  yellow 
beneath  the  cold  breath  of  autumn.  The  broad  lake 
glittered  in  the  light.  The  swans,  just  awake,  came  sailing 
majestically  out  from  under  the  bushes  overhanging  the 
banks.  Maria  Ivanovna  walked  towards  a  delightful  lawn, 
where  a  monument  had  just  been  erected  in  honour  of  the 
recent  victories  gained  by  Count  Peter  Alexandrovitch 
Roumyanzoff.*  Suddenly  a  little  white  dog  of  English  breed 
ran  barking  towards  her.  Maria  grew  frightened  and  stood 
still.  At  the  same  moment  she  heard  an  agreeable  female 
voice  call  out : 

*'  Do  not  be  afraid,  it  will  not  bite." 

Maria  saw  a  lady  seated  on  the  bench  opposite  the 
monument.  Maria  sat  down  on  the  other  end  of  the 
bench.  The  lady  looked  at  her  attentively ;  Maria  on  her 
side,  by  a  succession  of  stolen  glances,  contrived  to  examine 

^  A  famous  Russian  general  who  distinguished  himself  in  the  wax 
against  the  Turks. 


the  stranger  from  head  to  foot.  She  was  attired  in  a  white 
morning  gown,  a  light  cap,  and  a  short  mantle.  She  seemed 
to  be  about  forty  years  of  age.  Her  face,  which  was  full 
and  red,  wore  an  expression  of  calmness  and  dignity,  and 
her  blue  eyes  and  smiling  lips  had  an  indescribable  charm 
about  them.     The  lady  was  the  first  to  break  silence. 

"  You  are  doubtless  a  stranger  here  ?  "  said  she. 

"  Yes,  I  only  arrived  yesterday  from  the  country." 

"  Did  you  come  with  your  parents  ?  " 

"  No,  I  came  alone." 

"  Alone  !     But  you  are  very  young  to  travel  alone." 

"  I  have  neither  father  nor  mother." 

"  Perhaps  you  have  come  here  on  some  business  ?  " 

"Yes,  I  have  come  to  present  a  petition  to  the 

"  You  are  an  orphan :  probably  you  have  come  to  com- 
plain of  some  injustice." 

**  No,  I  have  come  to  ask  for  mercy,  not  justice.* 

"  May  I  ask  you  who  you  are  ?  " 

"  I  am  the  daughter  of  Captain  Mironoff." 

'*  Of  Captain  Mironoff !  the  same  who  was  Commandant 
of  one  of  the  Orenburg  fortresses  ?  " 

"  The  same,  Madam." 

The  lady  appeared  moved. 

'  "  Forgive  me,"  said  she,  in  a  still  kinder  voice,  "  for  in- 
teresting myself  in  your  business ;  but  I  am  frequently  at ' 
Court;    explain  to   me  the  nature  of  your  request,  and 
perhaps  I  may  be  able  to  help  you." 

Maria  Ivanovna  arose  and  thanked  her  respectfully. 
Everything  about  this  unknown  lady  drew  her  towards  her 
and  inspired  her  with  confidence.  Maria  drew  from  her 
pocket  a  folded  paper  and  gave  it  to  her  unknown  protect- 
ress, who  read  it  to  herself. 

At  first  she  began  reading  with  an  attentive  and  bene- 


THE  captain's  DAUGHTER.  I49 

volent  expression ;  but  suddenly  her  countenance  changed, 
and  Maria,  whose  eyes  followed  all  her  movements,  became 
frightened  by  the  severe  expression  of  that  face,  which  a 
moment  before  had  been  so  calm  and  gracious. 

"You  are  supplicating  for  Grineff?"  said  the  lady  in  a 
cold  tone.  "The  Empress  cannot  pardon  him.  He  went 
over  to  the  usurper,  not  out  of  ignorance  and  credulity,  but 
as  a  depraved  and  dangerous  scoundrel." 

"  Oh  !  it  is  not  true  ! "  exclaimed  Maria. 

*'How,  not  true?"  replied  the  lady,  her  face  flushing. 

"  It  is  not  true ;  as  God  is  above  us,  it  is  not  true !  I 
know  all,  I  will  tell  you  everything.  It  was  for  my  sake 
alone  that  he  exposed  himself  to  all  the  misfortunes  that 
have  overtaken  him.  And  if  he  did  not  justify  himself 
before  the  Commission,  it  was  only  because  he  did  not  wish 
to  implicate  me." 

She  then  related  with  great  warmth  all  that  is  already 
known  to  the  reader. 

The  lady  listened  to  her  attentively. 

"  Where  are  you  staying  ?  "  she  asked,  when  Maria  had 
finished  her  story;  and  hearing  that  it  was  with  Anna 
Vlassievna,  she  added  with  a  smile : 

"  Ah,  I  know.  Farewell ;  do  not  speak  to  anybody  about 
our  meeting.  I  hope  that  you  will  not  have  to  wait  long  for 
an  answer  to  your  letter." 

With  these  words  she  rose  from  her  seat  and  proceeded 
down  a  covered  alley,  while  Maria  Ivanovna  returned  to 
Anna  Vlassievna,  filled  with  joyful  hopes. 

Her  hostess  scolded  her  for  going  out  so  early;  the 
autumn  air,  she  said,  was  not  good  for  a  young  girl's  health. 
She  brought  an  urn,  and  over  a  cup  of  tea  she  was  about  to 
begin  her  endless  discourse  about  the  Court,  when  suddenly 
a  carriage  with  armorial  bearings  stopped  before  the  door, 
and   a   lackey   entered  with  the   announcement  that  the 


Empiess  summoned  to  her  presence  the  daughter  of  Captam 

Anna  Vlassievna  was  perfectly  amazed. 

"  Good  Lord  ! "  she  exclaimed  :  "  the  Empress  summons 
you  to  Court.  How  did  she  get  to  know  anything  about 
you?  And  how  will  you  present  yourself  before  Her 
Majesty,  my  little  mother?  I  do  not  think  that  you  even 
know  how  to  walk  according  to  Court  manners.  .  .  .  Shall 
I  conduct  you  ?  I  could  at  any  rate  give  you  a  little  caution. 
And  how  can  you  go  in  your  travelling  dress  ?  Shall  I  send 
to  the  nurse  for  her  yellow  gown  ?  " 

The  lackey  announced  that  it  was  the  Empress's  pleasure 
that  Maria  Ivanovna  should  go  alone  and  in  the  dress  that 
she  had  on.  There  was  nothing  else  to  be  done :  Maria 
took  her  seat  in  the  carriage  and  was  driven  off,  accompanied 
by  the  counsels  and  blessings  of  Anna  Vlassievna. 

Maria  felt  that  our  fate  was  about  to  be  decided;  her 
heart  beat  violently.  In  a  few  moments  the  carriage  stopped 
af  the  gate  of  the  palace.  Maria  descended  the  steps  with 
trembling  feet.  The  doors  flew  open  before  her.  She 
traversed  a  large  number  of  empty  but  magnificent  rooms, 
guided  by  the  lackey.  At  last,  coming  to  a  closed  door,  he 
informed  her  that  she  would  be  announced  directly,  and 
then  left  her  by  herself. 

The  thought  of  meeting  the  Empress  face  to  face  so 
terrified  her,  that  she  could  scarcely  stand  upon  her  feet. 
In  about  a  minute  the  door  was  opened,  and  she  was 
ushered  into  the  Empress's  boudoir. 

The  Empress  was  seated  at  her  toilette-table,  surrounded 
by  a  number  of  Court  ladies,  who  respectfully  made  way  for 
Maria  Ivanovna.  The  Empress  turned  round  to  her  with 
an  amiable  smile,  and  Maria  recognized  in  her  the  lady  with 
whom  she  had  spoken  so  freely  a  few  minutes  before.  The 
lEmpress  bade  her  approach,  and  said  with  a  smile ; 


"  I  am  glad  that  I  am  able  to  keep  my  word  and  grant 
your  petition.  Your  business  is  arranged.  I  am  convinced 
of  the  innocence  of  your  lover.  Here  is  a  letter  which  you 
will  give  to  your  future  father-in-law." 

Maria  took  the  letter  with  trembling  hands  and,  bursting 
into  tears,  fell  at  the  feet  of  the  Empress,  who  raised  her  up 
and  kissed  her  upon  the  forehead. 

"  I  know  that  you  are  not  rich,"  said  she ;  "  but  I  owe  a 
debt  to  the  daughter  of  Captain  Mironoff.  Do  not  be  un- 
easy about  the  future.     I  will  see  to  your  welfare." 

After  having  consoled  the  poor  orphan  in  this  way,  the 
Empress  allowed  her  to  depart.  Maria  left  the  palace  in 
the  same  carriage  that  had  brought  her  thither.  Anna 
Vlassievna,  who  was  impatiently  awaiting  her  return,  over- 
whelmed her  with  questions,  to  which  Maria  returned  very 
vague  answers.  Although  dissatisfied  with  the  weakness  ot 
her  memory,  Anna  Vlassievna  ascribed  it  to  her  provincial 
bashfulness,  and  magnanimously  excused  her.  The  same 
day  Maria,  without  even  desiring  to  glance  at  St.  Petersburg, 
set  out  on  her  return  journey. 

#  #  #  *  * 

The  memoirs  of  Peter  Andreitch  GrinefF  end  here.  But 
from  a  family  tradition  we  learn  that  he  was  released  from 
his  imprisonment  towards  the  end  of  the  year  1774  by  order 
of  the  Empress,  and  that  he  was  present  at  the  execution  of 
Pougatcheff^  who  recognized  him  in  the  crowd  and  nodded 
to  him  with  his  head,  which,  a  few  moments  afterwards,  was 
shown  lifeless  and  bleeding  to  the  people.^  Shortly  after- 
wards, Peter  Andreitch  and  Maria  Ivanovna  were  married. 
Their  descendants  still  flourish  in  the  government  of  Sim- 
birsk.    About  thirty  versts  from  ,  there  is  a  village 

^  It  is  said  that  even  at  the  present  day  the  peasants  in  the  south-east 
of  Russia  are  firmly  convinced  that  PougatchefiF  was  really  the  Emperor 
Peter  HI.,  and  pot  ao  impostor. 


belonging  to  ten  landholders.  In  the  house  of  one  of 
them,  there  may  still  be  seen,  framed  and  glazed,  the  auto- 
graph letter  of  Catherine  II.  It  is  addressed  to  the  father 
of  Peter  Andreitch,  and  contains  the  justification  of  his  son, 
and  a  tribute  of  praise  to  the  heart  and  intellect  of  Captain 
Mironoff 's  daughter. 




SOME  years  ago,  there  lived  on  one  of  his  estates  a 
Russian  gentleman  of  the  old  school  named  Kirila 
Petrovitch  Troekouroff.  His  Wealth,  distinguished  birth, 
and  connections  gave  him  great  weight  in  the  government 
where  his  property  was  situated.  Completely  spoilt  by  his 
surroundings,  he  was  in  the  habit  of  giving  way  to  every 
impulse  of  his  passionate  nature,  to  every  caprice  of  his 
sufficiently  narrow  mind.  The  neighbours  were  ready  to 
gratify  his -slightest  whim ;  the -government  officials  trembled 
at  his  name.  Kirila  Petrovitch  accepted  all  these  signs  of 
servility  as  homage  due  to  him.  His  house  was  always  full 
of  guests,  ready  to  amuse  his  lordship's  leisure,  and  to  join 
his  noisy  and  sometimes  boisterous  mirth.  Nobody  dared 
to  refuse  his  invitations  or,  on  certain  days,  omit  to  put  in 
an  appearance  at  the  village  of  Pokrovskoe.  Kirila  Petro; 
vitch  was  very  hospitable,  and  in  spite  of  the  extraordinary 
vigour  of  his  constitution,  he  suffered  two  or  three  times  a 
week  from  surfeit,  and  became  tipsy  every  evening. 

Very  few  of  the  young  women  of  his  household  escaped 
the  amorous  attentions  of  this  old  man  of  fifty.  Moreover, 
in  one  of  the  wings  of  his  house  lived  sixteen  girls  engaged 
in  needlework.  The  windows  of  this  wing  were  protected 
by  wooden  bars,  the  doors  were  kept  locked,  and  the  keys 
retained  by  Kirila  Petrovitch.     The  young  recluses  at  an 

156  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

appointed  hour  went  into  the  garden  for  a  walk  under  the 
surveillance  of  two  old  women.  From  time  to  time  Kirila 
Petrovitch  married  some  of  them  off,  and  new  comers  took 
their  places.  He  treated  his  peasants  and  domestics  in  a 
severe  and  arbitrary  fashion,  in  spite  of  which  they  were 
very  devoted  to  him  :  they  loved  to  boast  of  the  wealth  and 
influence  of  their  master,  and  in  their  turn  took  many  a 
liberty  with  their  neighbours,  trusting  to  his  powerful 

The  ordinary  occupatiohs  of  Troekouroff  consisted  in 
driving  over  his  vast  domains,  passing  his  nights  in  pro- 
longed revels,  and  playing  practical  jokes,  specially  invented 
from  time  to  time,  the  victims  being  generally  new  acquain- 
tances, though  his  old  friends  did  not  always  escape,  one 
only— Andrei  Gavrilovitch  Doubrovsky — excepted. 

This  Doubrovsky,  a  retired  lieutenant  of  the  Guards,  was 
his  nearest  neighbour,  and  possessed  seventy  serfs.  Troe- 
kouroff,' haughty  in  his  dealings  with  people  of  the  highest 
rank,  respected  Doubrovsky,  i^^spite  of  his  humble  fortune. 
They  had  been  friends  in  the  service,  and  Troekouroff 
knew  from  experience  the  impatience  and  decision  of  his 
character.  The  celebrated  events  of  the  year  1762  ^  sepa- 
rated them  for  a  long  time.  Troekouroff,  a  relative  of  the 
Princess  Dashkoff,'^  received  rapid  promotion  ;  Doubrovsky 
with  his  reduced  fortune,  was  compelled  to  leave  the  service 
and  settle  down  in  the  only  village  that  remained  to  him. 
Kirila  Petrovitch,  hearing  of  this,  offered  him  his  protec- 
tion ;  but  Doubrovsky  thanked  him  and  remained  poor  and 
independent.  Some  years  later,  Troekouroff,  having  ob- 
tained the  rank  of  general,  and  retired  to  his  estate,  they 
met  again  and  were  delighted  with  each  other.     After  that 

^  Alluding  to  the  deposition  and  assassination  of  Peter  III.,  and  the 
accession  of  his  wife  Catherine  II. 
*  One  of  Catherine's  partisans  in  the  revolution  of  1762. 


they  saw  each  other  every  day,  and  Kirila  Petrovitch,  who 
had  never  deigned  to  visit  anybody  in  his  life,  came  quite 
as  a  matter  of  course  to  the  little  house  of  his  old  comrade. 
Being  of  the  same  age,  born  in  the  same  rank  of  society, 
and  having  received  the  same  education,  they  resembled 
each  other  somewhat  in  character  and  inclinations.  In 
some  respects  their  fates  had  been  similar :  both  had 
married  for  love,  both  had  soon  become  widowers,  and  both 
had  been  left  with  an  only  child.  The  son  of  Doubrovsky 
was  studying  at  St.\  Petersburg ;  the  daughter  of  Kirila 
Petrovitch  grew  up  under  the  eyes  of  her  father,  and 
TroekourofF  often  said  to  Doubrovsky  : 

*'  Listen,  brother  Andrei  Gavrilovitch ;  if  your  Volodka  ^ 
should  be  successful,  I  will  give  him  Masha  ^  for  his  wife,  in 
spite  of  his  being  as  naked  as  a  goshawk." 

Andrei  Gavrilovitch  used  to  shake  his  head,  and  gene- 
rally replie'd :         ' 

"  No,  Kirila  Petrovitch ;  my  Volodka  is  no  match  for 
Maria  Kirilovna.  A  poor  petty  noble,  such  as  he,  would 
do  better  to  marry  a  poor  girl  of  the- petty  nobililty,  and  be 
the  head  of  his  house,  rather  than  become  the  bailiff  of 
some  spoilt  little  woman." 

Everybody  envied  the  good  understanding  existing 
between  the  haughty  Troekouroff  and  his  poor  neighbour, 
and  wondered  at  the  boldness  of  the  latter  when,  at  the 
table  of  Kirila  Petrovitch,  he  expressed  his  own  opinion 
frankly,  and  did  not  hesitate  to  maintain  an  opinion  con- 
trary to  that  of  his  host  Some  attempted  to  imitate  him 
and  ventured  to  overstep  the  limits  of  the  license  accorded 
them ;  but  Kirila  Petrovitch  taught  them  such  a  lesson,  that 
they  never  afterwards  felt  any  desire  to  repeat  the  experi- 
ment.    Doubrovsky  alone  remained  beyond  the  range  of 

^  Diminutive  of  Vladimir.  *  Diminutive  of  Maria  or  Mary. 

iS8  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

this  general  law.      But  an  unexpected  incident  deranged 
and  altered  all  this.  i 

One  day,  in  the  beginning  of  autumn,  Kirila  Petro- 
vitch  prepared  to  go  out  hunting.  Orders  had  been  given 
the  evening  before  for  the  huntsmen  and  gamekeepers  to  be 
ready  at  five  o'clock  in  the  morning.  The  tent  and  kitchen 
had  been  sent  on  beforehand  to  the  place  where  Kirila 
Petrovitch  was  to  dine.  The  host  and  his  guests  went  to 
the  kennel,  where  more  than  five  hundred  harriers  and  grey- 
hounds lived  in  luxury  and  warmth,  praising  the  generosity 
of  Kirila  Petrovitch  in  their  canine  language.  There  was 
also  a  hospital  for  the  sick  dogs,  under  the  care  of  staff- 
surgeon  Timoshka,  and  a  separate  place  where  the  bitches 
brought  forth  and  suckled  their  pups.  Kirila  Petrovitch 
was  proud  of  this  magnificent  establishment,  and  never 
missed  an  opportunity  of  boasting  about  it,before  his  guests,| 
each  of  whom  had  inspected  it  at  least  twenty  times.  H 
walked  through  the  kennel,  surrounded  by  his  guests  an 
accompanied  by  Timoshka  and  the  head  gamekeeper; 
pausing  before  some  of  the  compartments,  either  to  ask 
after  the  health  of  some  sick  dog,  to  make  some  observa- 
tion more  or  less  just  and  severe,  or  to  call  some  dog  to  him 
by  name  and  speak  caressingly  to  it.  The  guests  con- 
sidered it  their  duty  to  go  into  raptures  over  Kirila  Petro- 
vitch's  kennel;  Doubrovsky  alone  remained  silent  and 
frowned.  He  was  an  ardent  sportsman ;  but  his  modest 
fortune  only  permitted  him  to  keep  two  harriers  and  one 
greyhound,  and  he  could  not  restrain  a  certain  feeling  of 
envy  at  the  sight  of  this  magnificent  establishment. 

"  Why  do  you  frown,  brother  ?  "  Kirila  Petrovitch  asked 
him.     **  Does  not  my  kennel  please  you  ?  " 

"No,"  replied  Doubrovsky  abruptly:  "the  kennel  is 
marvellous,  but  I  doubt  whether  your  people  live  as  well  as 
your  dogs." 


One  of  the  gamekeepers  took  offence. 

"  Thanks  to  God  and  our  master,  we  have  nothing  to 
complain  of,"  said  he;  "but  if  the  truth  must  be  told, 
there  are  certain  nobles  who  would  not  do  badly  if  they 
exchanged  their  manor-house  for  one  of  the  compart- 
ments of  this  kennel:  they  would  be  better  fed  and  feel 

Kirila  Petrovitch  burst  out  laughing  at  this  insolent 
remark  from  his  servant,  and  the  guests  followed  his 
example,  although  they  felt  that  the  gamekeeper's  joke 
might  apply  to  them  also.  Doubrovsky  turned  pale  and 
said  not  a  word.  At  that  moment  a  basket,  containing 
some  new-born  puppies,  was  brought  to  Kirila  Petrovitch ; 
he  chose  two  out  of  the  litter  and  ordered  the  rest  to  be 
drowned.  In  the  meantime  Andrei  Gavrilovitch  had  dis- 
appeared without  anybody  having  observed  it. 

On  returning  with  his  guests  from  the  kennel,  Kirila 
Petrovitch  sat  down  to  supper,  and  it  was  only  then  that  he 
noticed  the  absence  Qf  Doubrovsky.  His  people  informed 
him  that  Andrei  Gavrilovitch  had  gone  home.  Troekouroff 
immediately  gave  orders  that  he  was  to  be  overtaken  and 
brought  back  without  fail.  He  had  never  gone  hunt- 
ing without  Dpubrovsky,  who  was  a  fine  and  experienced 
connoisseur  in  all  matters  relating  to  dogs,  and  an  infallible 
umpire  in  all  possible  disputes  connected  with  sport.  The 
servant  who  had  galloped  after  him,  returned  while  they 
were  still  seated  at  table,  and  informed  his  master  that 
Andrei  Gavrilovitch  had  refused  to  listen  to  him  and  would 
not  return.  Kirila  Petrovitch,  as  usual,  was  heated  with 
liquor,  and  becoming  very  angry,  he  sent  the  same  servant 
a  second  time  to  tell  Andrei  Gavrilovitch  that  if  he  did  not 
return  at  once  to  spend  the  night  at  Pokrovskoe,  he, 
Troekouroff,  would  break  off  all  friendly  intercourse  with 
him  for  ever.    The   servant  galloped   off  again.      Kirila 


Petrovitch  rose  from  the  table,  dismissed  his  guests  *^nd 
retired  to  bed. 

The  next  day  his  first  question  was  :  "Is  Andrei Gavrilo- 
vitch  here?"  A  triangular-shaped  letter  was  handed  to 
him.  Kirila  Petrovitch  ordered  his  secretary  to  read  it 
aloud,  and  the  following  is  what  he  heard  : 

"  Gracious  Sir ! 

"  I  do  not  intend  to  return  to  Pokrovskoe  until 
you  send  the  dog-feeder  Paramoshka  to  me  with  an 
apology  :  I  shall  retain  the  liberty  of  punishing  or  for- 
giving him.  I  cannot  put  up  with  jokes  from  your  servants, 
nor  do  I  intend  to  put  up  with  them  from  you,  as  I  am  not 
a  buffoon,  but  a  gentleman  of  ancient  family.  I  remain  your 
obedient  servant, 

"  Andrei  DouBROVSKY." 

According  to  present  ideas  of  etiquette,  such  a  letter 
would  be  very  unbecoming ;  it  irritated  Kirila  Petrovitch, 
not  by  its  strange  style,  but  by  its  substance. 

'*What!"  exclaimed  Troekouroff,  springing  barefooted 
out  of  bed ;  "  send  my  people  to  him  with  an  apology ! 
And  he  to  be  at  liberty  to  punish  or  pardon  them  !  What 
can  he  be  thinking  of?  Does  he  know  with  whom  he  is 
dealing  ?  I'll  teach  him  a  lesson  !  He  shall  know  what  it  is 
to  oppose  Troekouroff ! "  • 

Kirila  Petrovitch  dressed  himself  and  set  out  for  the  hunt 
with  his  usual  ostentation.  But  the  chase  was  not  success- 
ful ;  during  the  whole  of  the  day  one  hare  only  was  seen, 
and  that  escaped.  The  dinner  in  the  field,  under  the  tent, 
was  also  a  failure,  or  at  least  it  was  not  to  the  taste  of  Kirila 
Petrovitch,  who  struck  the  cook,  abused  the  guests,  and  on 
the  return  journey  rode  intentionally,  with  all  his  suite, 
through  the  fields  of  Doubrovsky. 




SEVERAL  days  passed,  and  the  animosity  between  the 
two  neighbours  did  not  subside.  Andrei  Gavrilovitch 
returned  no  more  to  Pokrovskoe,  and  Kirila  Petrovitch, 
feeling  dull  without  him,  vented  his  spleen  in  the  most 
insulting  expressions,  which,  thanks  to  the  zeal  of  the 
neighbouring  nobles,  reached  Doubrovsky  revised  and  aug- 
mented. -  A  fresh  incident  destroyed  the  last  hope  of  a 

One  day,  Doubrovsky  was  going  the  round  of  his  little 
estate,  when,  on  approaching  a  grove  of  birch  trees,  he 
heard  the  blows  of  an  axe,  and  a  minute  afterwards  the 
crash  of  a  falling  tree ;  he  hastened  to  the  spot  and  found 
some  of  the  Pokrovskoe  peasants  stealing  his  wood.  Seeing 
him,  they  took  to  flight ;  but  Doubrovsky,  with  the  assis- 
tance of  his  coachman,  caught  two  of  them,  whom  he 
brought  home  bound.  Moreover,  two  horses,  belonging  to 
the  enemy,  fell  into  the  hands  of  the  conqueror. 

Doubrovsky  was  exceedingly  angry.  Before  this,  Troe- 
kouroff's  people,  who  were  well-known  robbers,  had  never 
dared  to  play  tricks  within  the  boundaries  of  his  property, 
being  aware  of  the  friendship  which  existed  between  him  and 
their  master.  Doubrovsky  now  perceived  that  they  were 
taking  advantage  of  the  rupture  which  had  occurred  between 
him  and  his  neighbour,  and  he  resolved,  contrary  to  all  ideas 
Z)f  the  rules  of  war,  to  teach  his  prisoners  a  lesson  with  the 
rods  which  they  themselves  had  collected  in  his  grove,  and  to 


send  the  horses  to  work  and  to  incorporate  them  with  his 
own  cattle. 

The  news  of  these  proceedings  reached  the  ears  of  Kirila 
Petrovitch  that  very  same  day.  He  was  almost  beside  him- 
self with  rage,  and  in  the  first  moment  of  his  passion,  he 
wanted  to  take  all  his  domestics  and  make  an  attack  upon 
Kistenevka  (for  such  was  the  name  of  his  neighbour's 
village),  raze  it  to  the  ground,  and  besiege  the  landholder  in 
his  own  residence.  Such  exploits  were  not  rare  with  him  ; 
but  his  thoughts  soon  took  another  direction.  Pacing  with 
heavy  steps  up  and  down  the  hall,  he  glanced  casually  out 
of  the  window,  and  saw  a  troika  in  the  act  of  stopping  at  his 
gate.  A  man  in  a  leather  travelling- cap  and  a  frieze  cloak 
stepped  out  of  the  telega  and  proceeded  towards  the  wing 
occupied  by  the  bailiff.  Troekouroff  recognized  the  assessor 
Shabashkin,  and  gave  orders  for  him  to  be  sent  in  to  him.  A 
minute  afterwards  Shabashkin  stood  before  Kirila  Petrovitch, 
and  bowing  repeatedly,  waited  respectfully  to  hear  what  he 
had  to  say  to  him. 

"Good  day — what  is  your  name?"  said  Troekouroff: 
*'  Why  have  you  come  ?  " 

"  I  was  going  to  the  town.  Your  Excellency,"  replied  Sha- 
bashkin, "  and  I  called  on  Ivan  Demyanoff  to  know  if  there 
were  any  orders." 

*'  You  have  come  at  a  very  opportune  moment — what  is 
your  name  ?  I  have  need  of  you.  Take  a  glass  of  brandy 
and  listen  to  me." 

Such  a  friendly  welcome  agreeably  surprised  the  assessor : 
he  decHned  the  brandy,  and  listened  to  Kirila  Petrovitch 
with  all  possible  attention. 

"  I  have  a  neighbour,"  said  Troekouroff,  "  a  small  pro- 
prietor, a  rude  fellow,  and  I  want  to  take  his  property  from 
him.  .  .  .  What  do  you  think  of  that  ? " 

"  Your  Excellency,  are  there  any  documents — ?  " 


"  Don't  talk  nonsense,  brother/  what  documents  are  you 
talking  about  ?  The  business  in  this  case  is  to  take  his  pro- 
perty away  from  him,  with  or  without  documents.  But 
stop!  This  estate  belonged  to  us  at  one  time.  It  was 
bought  from  a  certain  Spitsin,  and  then  sold  to  Doubrov- 
sky's  father.     Can't  you  make  a  case  out  of  that  ?  " 

"It  would  be  difficult,  Your  Excellency:    probably  the 
sale  was  effected  in  strict  accordance  with  the  law." 
** Think,  brother;  try  your  hardest." 
"If,  for  example,  Your  Excellency  could  in  some  way 
obtam  from  your  neighbour  the  contract,  in  virtue  of  which 
he  holds  possession  of  his  estate,  then,  without  doubt—" 

"I  understand,  but  that  is  the  misfortune :  all  his  papers 
were  burnt  at  the  time  of  the  fire." 

"  What !  Your  Excellency,  his  papers  were  burnt  ?   What 
could  be  better?     In  that  case,  take  proceedings  according 
to  law;  without  the  slightest  doubt  you  will  receive  com 
plete  satisfaction." 

"  You  think  so?  Well,  see  to  it ;  I  rely  upon  your  zeal 
and  you  can  rest  assured  of  my  gratitude." 

Shabashkin,  bowing  almost  to  the  ground,  took  his  depar- 
ture;  from  that  day  he  began  to  devote  all  his  energies  to 
the  busmess  intrusted  to  him  and,  thanks  to  his  prompt 
action,  exactly  a  fortnight  afterwards  Doubrovsky  received 
from  the  town  a  summons  to  appear  in  court  and  to  produce 
the  documents,  in  virtue  of  which  he  held  possession  of  the 
village  of  Kistenevka. 

Andrei  Gavrilovitch,  greatly  astonished  by  this  unexpected 
request  wrote  that  very  same  day  a  somewhat  rude  reply  in 
which  he  explained  that  the  village  of  Kistenevka  became 
his  on  the  death  of  his  father,  that  he  held  it  by  right  of  in 
heritance,   that  Troekouroff  had  nothing  to  do  with   the 

th:ifS:'"^'^'"^'^''^-"'^™^''^-  »f '«-"«•  i»  addressing 



matter,  and  that  all  adventitious  pretensions  to  his  property 
were  nothing  but  the  outcome  of  chicanery  and  roguery. 
Doubrovsky  had  no  experience  in  litigation.  He  generally 
followed  the  dictates  of  common  sense,  a  guide  rarely  safe, 
and  nearly  always  insufficient. 

This  letter  produced  a  very  agreeable  impression  on  the 
mind  of  Shabashkin  ;  he  saw,  in  the  first  place,  that  Dou- 
Drovsky  knew  very  little  about  legal  matters ;  and,  in  the 
second,  that  it  would  not  be  difficult  to  place  such  a 
passionate  and  indiscreet  man  in  a  very  disadvantageous 

Andrei  Gavrilovitch,  after  a  more  careful  consideration  of 
the  questions  addressed  to  him,  saw  the  necessity  of  reply- 
ing more  circumstantially.  He  wrote  a  sufficiently  pertinent 
paper,  but  in  the  end  this  proved  insufficient  also. 

The  business  dragged  on.  Confident  in  his  own  right, 
Andrei  Gavrilovitch  troubled  himself  very  little  about  the 
matter;  he  had  neither  the  inclination  nor  the  means 
to  scatter  money  about  him,  and  he  began  to  deride  the 
mercenary  consciences  of  the  scribbling  fraternity.  The 
idea  of  being  made  the  victim  of  treachery  never  entered 
his  head.  Troekouroff,  on  his  side,  thought  as  little  of  win- 
ning the  case  he  had  devised.  Shabashkin  took  the  matter 
in  hand  for  him,  acting  in  his  name,  threatening  and  bribing 
the  judges  and  quoting  and  interpreting  the  ordinances  in 
the  most  distorted  manner  possible. 

At  last,  on  the  9th  day  of  P'ebruary,  in  the  year  18 — , 
Doubrovsky  received,  through  the  town  police,  an  invitation 
to  appear  at  the  district  court  to  hear  the  decision  in  the 
matter  of  the  disputed  property  between  himself — Lieutenant 
Doubrovsky,  and  General-in-Chief  Troekouroff,  and  to  sign 
his  approval  or  disapproval  of  the  verdict.  That  same  day 
Doubrovsky  set  out  for  the  town.  On  the  road  he  was  over- 
taken   by   Troekouroff.     They   glared  haughtily   at   each 



other,  and  Doubrovsky  observed  a  malicious  smile  upon  the 
face  of  his  adversary. 

Arriving  in  town,  Andrei  Gavrilovitch  stopped  at  the 
house  of  an  acquaintance,  a  merchant,  with  whom  he  spent 
the  night,  and  the  next  morning  he  appeared  before  the 
Court.  Nobody  paid  any  attention  to  him.  After  him 
arrived  Kirila  Petrovitch.  The  members  of  the  Court 
received  him  with  every  manifestation  of  the  deepest  sub- 
mission, and  an  armchair  was  brought  to  him  out  of 
consideration  for  his  rank-,  years  and  corpulence.  He  sat 
down  j  Andrei  Gavrilovitch  stood  leaning  against  the  wall. 
A  deep  silence  ensued,  and  the  secretary  began  in  a 
sonorous  voice  to  read  the  decree  of  the  Court. 

When  the  secretary  had  ceased  reading,  the  assessor  arose 
and,  with  a  low  bow,  turned  to  Troekouroff,  inviting  him  to 
sign  the  paper  which  he  held  out  to  him.  Troekouroff, 
quite  triumphant,  took  the  pen  and  wrote  beneath  the 
decision  of  the  Court  his  complete  satisfaction. 

It  was  now  Doubrovsky's  turn.  The  secretary  handed 
the  paper  to*  him,  but  Doubrovsky  stood  immovable,  with 
his  head  bent  down.  The  secretary  repeated  his  invitation  : 
"To  subscribe  his  full  and  complete  satisfaction,  or  his 
manifest  dissatisfaction,  if  he  felt  in  his  conscience  that  his 
case  was  just,  and  intended  to  appeal  against  the  decision  of 
the  Court." 

Doubrovsky  remained  silent  ...  Suddenly  he  raised 
his  head,  his  eyes  sparkled,  he  stamped  his  foot,  pushed 
back  the  secretary  with  such  force,  that  he  fell,  seized  the 
inkstand,  hurled  it  at  the  assessor,  and  cried  in  a  wild 
voice : 

*'  What !  you  don't  respect  the  Church  of  God  !  Away, 
you  race  of  Shem  ! " 

Then  turning  to  Kirila  Petrovitch  : 

"  Has  such  a  thing  ever  been  heard  of,  Your  Excel- 

1 66  POUSHKIN*S  PROSE  TALES.       • 

lency  ?  "  he  continued.  "  The  huntsmen  lead  greyhounds 
into  the  Church  of  God  !  The  dogs  are  running  about  the 
church  !     I  will  teach  them  a  lesson  presently  ! " 

Everybody  was  terrified.  The  guards  rushed  in  on  hear- 
ing the  noise,  and  with  difficulty  overpowered  him.  They 
led  him  out  and  placed  him  in  a  sledge.  Troekouroff 
went  out  after  him,  accompanied  by  the  whole  Court. 
Doubrovsky's  sudden  madness  had  produced  a  deep 
impression  upon  his  imagination;  the  judges,  who  had 
counted  upon  his  gratitude,  were  not  honoured  by  receiving 
a  single  affable  word  from  him.  He  returned  immediately 
to  Pokrovskoe,  secretly  tortured  by  his  conscience,  and  not 
at  all  satisfied  with  the  triumph  of  his  hatred.  Doubrovsky, 
in  the  meantime,  lay  in  bed.  The  district  doctor — not 
altogether  a  blockhead — bled  him  and  applied  leeches  and 
mustard-plasters  to  him.  Towards  evening  he  began  to 
feel  better,  and  the  next  day  he  was  taken  to  Kistenevka, 
which  scarcely  belonged  to  him  any  longer. 



SOME  time  elapsed,  but  the  health  of  the  stricken 
Doubrovsky  showed  no  signs  of  improvement.  It  is 
true  that  the  fits  of  madness  did  not  recur,  but  his  strength 
became  visibly  less.  He  forgot  his  former  occupations, 
rarely  left  his  room,  and  for  days  together  remained  absorbed 
in  his  own  reflections.  Egorovna,  a  kind-hearted  old  woman 
who  hard  once  tended  his  son,  now  became  his  nurse.  She 
waited  upon  him  like  a  child,  reminded  him  when  it  was 
time  to  eat  and  sleep,  fed  him  and  even  put  him  to  bed. 
Andrei  Gavrilovitch  obeyed  her,  and  had  no  intercourse  with 
anybody  else.  He  was  not  in  a  condition  to  think  about  his 
affairs  or  to  look  after  his  property,  and  Egorovna  saw  the 
necessity  of  informing  young  Doubrovsky,  who  was  then 
serving  in  one  of  the  regiments  of  Foot  Guards  stationed  in 
St.  Petersburg,  of  everything  that  had  happened.  And  so, 
tearing  a  leaf  from  the  account-book,  she  dictated  to 
Khariton  the  cook,  the  only  literate  person  in  Kistenevka,  a 
letter,  which  she  sent  off  that  same  day  to  the  town  post. 

But  it  is  time  for  the  reader  to  become  acquainted  with 
the  real  hero  of  this  story. 

Vladimir  Doubrovsky  had  been  educated  at  the  cadet 
school  and,  on  leaving  it,  had  entered  the  Guards  as  sub- 
lieutenant. His  father  spared  nothing  that  was  necessary  to 
enable  him  to  Uve  in  a  becoming  manner,  and  the  young 
man  received  from  home  a  great  deal  more  than  he  had  any 
right  to  expect.  Being  imprudent  and  ambitious,  he  indulged 
in  extravagant  habits,  ran  into  debt,  and  troubled  himself 

1 68  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

very  little  about  the  future.  Occasionally  the  thought 
crossed  his  mind  that  sooner  or  later  he  would  be  obliged  to 
take  to  himself  a  rich  bride. 

One  evening,  when  several  officers  were  spending  a  few 
hours  with  him,  lolling  on  the  couches  and  smoking  pipes 
with  amber  mouth-pieces,  Grisha,^  his  valet,  handed  him  a 
letter,  the  address  and  seal  of  which  immediately  attracted 
the  young  man's  attention.  He  hastily  opened  it  and  read 
the  following : 

*^Our  Lord  Vladimir  Andreivitch,  I,  your  old  nurse, 
venture  to  inform  you  of  the  health  of  your  papa.  He  is 
very  poorly,  sometimes  he  wanders  in  his  talk,  and  the 
whole  day  long  he  sits  like  a  stupid  child — but  life  and 
death  are  in  the  hands  of  God.  Come  to  us,  my  bright 
little  falcon,  and  we  will  send  horses  to  meet  you  at 
Pesotchnoe.  We  hear  that  the  Court  is  going  to  hand  us 
over  to  Kirila  Petrovitch  Troekouroff,  because  it  is  said  that 
we  belong  to  him,  although  we  have  always  belonged  to  you, 
and  have  always  heard  so  ever  since  we  can  remember. 
You  might,  living  in  St.  Petersburg,  inform  our  Father  the 
Czar  of  this,  and  he  will  not  allow  us  to  be  wronged.  It  has 
been  raining  here  for  the  last  fortnight,  and  the  shepherd 
Rodia  died  about  Michaelmas  Day.  I  send  my  maternal 
blessing  to  Grisha.  Does  he  serve  you  well?  I  remain 
your  faithful  nurse, 

"  Arina  Egorovna  .Bouzireva." 

Vladimir  Doubrovsky  read  these  somewhat  unintelligible 
lines  several  times  with  great  agitation.  He  had  lost  his 
mother  during  his  childhood,  and,  hardly  knowing  his 
father,  had  been  taken  to  St.  Petersburg  when  he  was  eight 
years  of  age.     In  spite  of  that,  he  was  romantically  attached 

^  Diminutive  of  Gregory. 


to  his  father,  and  having  had  but  little  opportunity  of  enjoy- 
ing the  pleasures  of  family  life,  he  loved  it  all  the  more  in 

The  thought  of  losing  his  father  pained  him  exceedingly, 
and  the  condition  of  the  poor  invalid,  which  he  guessed 
from  his  nurse's  letter,  horrified  him.  He  imagined  his 
father,  left  in  an  out-of-the-way  village,  in  the  hands  of  a 
stupid  old  woman  and  her  fellow  servants,  threatened  by 
some  misfortune,  and  expiring  without  help  in  the  mid-'^t  of 
tortures  both  mental  and  physical.  Vladimir  Andre/.vitch 
reproached  himself  with  criminal  neglect.  Not  having 
received  any  news  of  his  father  for  a  long  time,  he  had  not 
even  thought  of  making  inquiries  about  him,  supposing  him 
to  be  travelling  about  or  engaged  in  the  management  of  his 
estate.  That  same  evening  he  began  to  take  the  necessary 
steps  for  obtaining  leave  of  absence,  and  two  days  afterwards 
he  set  out  in  the  stage  coach,  accompanied  by  his  faithful 

Vladimir  Andreivitch  neared  the  post  station  at  which  he 
was  to  take  the  turning  for  Kistenevka.  His  heart  was  filled 
with  sad  forebodings ;  he  feared  that  he  would  no  longer 
find  his  father  aHve.  He  pictured  to  himself  the  dreary  kind 
of  life  that  awaited  him  in  the  village :  the  loneliness, 
solitude,  poverty  and  cares  of  business  of  which  he  knew 
nothing.  Arriving  at  the  station,  he  went  to  the  postmaster 
and  asked  for  fresh  horses.  The  postmaster,  having  inquired 
where  he  was  going,  informed  him  that  horses  sent  from 
Kistenevka  had  been  waiting  for  him  for  the  last  four  days. 
Soon  appeared  before  Vladimir  Andreivitch  the  old  coach- 
man Anton,  who  used  formerly  to  take  him  over  the  stables 
and  look  after  his  pony.  Anton's  eyes  filled  with  tears  on 
seeing  his  young  master,  and  bowing  to  the  ground,  he  told 
him  that  his  old  master  was  still  alive,  and  then  hastened  to 

170  poushkin\s  prose  tales. 

harness  the  horses.  Vladimir  Andreivitch  declined  the 
proffered  breakfast,  and  hastened  to  depart.  Anton  drove 
him  along  the  cross  country  roads,  and  conversation  began 
between  them. 

"  Tell  me,  if  you  please,  Anton,  what  is  this  business 
between  my  father  and  Troekouroff?" 

"  God  knows,  my  little  father  Vladimir  Andreivitch ;  our 
master,  they  say,  had  a  dispute  with  Kirila  Petrovitch,  and 
the  latter  summoned  him  before  the  judge,  though  very 
often  he  himself  is  the  judge.  It  is  not  the  business  of 
servants  to  discuss  the  affairs  of  their  masters,  but  it  was 
useless  of  your  father  to  contend  against  Kirila  Petrovitch : 
better  had  it  been  if  he  had  not  opposed  him." 

"  It  §eems,  then,  that  this  Kirila  Petrovitch  does  just 
what  he  pleases  among  you  ?  " 

"  He  certainly  does,  master :  he  does  not  care  a  rap  for 
the  assessor,  and  the  chief  of  police  runs  on  errands  for 
him.  The  nobles  repair  to  his  house  to  do  homage  to  him, 
for  as  the  proverb  says :  *  Where  there  is  a  trough,  there 
will  the  pigs  be  also.' " 

*'  Is  it  true  that  he  wants  to  take  our  estate  from  us  ?  " 

"Oh,  master,  that  is  what  we  have  heard.  A  few  days 
ago,  the  sexton  from  Pokrovskoe  said  at  the  christening 
held  at  the  house  of  our  overseer:  'You  do  well  to  enjoy 
yourselves  while  you  are  able,  for  you'll  not  have  much 
chance  of  doing  so  when  Kirila  Petrovitch  takes  you  in 
hand  j '  and  Nikita  the  blacksmith  said  to  him  :  *Savelitch, 
don't  distress  your  fellow  sponsor,  don't  disturb  the  guests. 
Kirila  Petrovitch  is  what  he  is,  and  Andrei  Gavrilovitch  is 
the  same — and  we  are  all  God's  and  the  Czar's.'  But  you 
cannot  sew  a  button  upon  another  person's  mouth." 

"  Then  you  do  not  wish  to  pass  into  the  possession  of 
Troekouroff?  " 

**  Into  the  possession  of  Kirila  Petrovitch  !     The  Lord 


save  and  preserve  us  !  His  own  people  fare  badly  enough, 
and  if  he  got  possession  of  strangers,  he  would  strip  off,  not 
only  their  skin,  but  their  flesh  also.  No,  may  God  grant 
long  life  to  Andrei  Gavrilovitch ;  and  if  God  should  take 
him  to  Himself,  we  want  nobody  but  you,  our  benefactor. 
Do  not  give  us  up,  and  we  will  stand  by  you." 

With  these  words,  Anton  flourished  his  whip,  shook  the 
reins,  and  the  horses  broke  into  a  brisk  trot. 

Touched  by  the  devotion  of  the  old  coachman,  Dou- 
brovsky  became  silent  and  gave  himself  up  to  his  own 
reflections.  More  than  an  hour  passed;  suddenly  Grisha 
roused  him  by  exclaiming  :  '*  There  is  Pokrovskoe  ! "  Dou- 
brovsky  raised  his  head.  They  were  just  then  driving  along 
the,  bank  of  a  broad  lake,  out  of  which  flowed  a  small 
stream  winding  among  the  hills.  On  one  of  these,  above  a 
thick  green  wood,  rose  the  green  roof  and  belvedere  of  a. 
huge  stone  house,  together  with  a  five-domed  church  with 
an  ancient  belfry ;  round  about  were  scattered  the  village 
huts  with  their  gardens  and  wells.  Doubrovsky  recognized 
these  places ;  he  remembered  that  on  that  very  hill  he  had 
played  with  little  Masha  Troekouroff,  who  was  two  years 
younger  than  he,  and  who  even  then  gave  promise  of  being 
very  beautiful.  He  wanted  to  make  inquiries  of  Anton 
about  her,  but  a  certain  bashfulness  restrained  him. 

On  approaching  the  castle,  he  perceived  a  white  dress 
flitting  among  the  trees  in  the  garden.  At  that  moment 
Anton  whipped  the  horses,  and  impelled  by  that  vanity, 
common  to  village  coachmen  as  to  drivers  in  general,  he 
drove  at  full  speed  over  the  bridge  and  past  the  garden. 
On  emerging  from  the  village,  they  ascended  the  hill,  and 
Vladimir  perceived  the  little  wood  of  birch  trees,  and  to  the 
left,  in  an  open  place,  a  small  grey  house  with  a  red  roof. 
His  heart  began  to  beat — before  him  was  Kisteuevka,  the 
humble  abode  of  his  father. 


About  ten  minutes  afterwards  he  drove  into  the  courtyard 
He  looked  around  him  with  indescribable  emotion :  twelve 
years  had  elapsed  since  he  last  saw  his  native  place.  The 
little  birches,  which  had  just  then  been  planted  near  the 
wooden  fence,  had  now  become  tall  trees  with  long  branches. 
The  courtyard,  formerly  ornamented  with  three  regular 
flower-beds,  between  which  ran  a  broad^  path  carefully 
swept,  had  been  converted  into  a  meadow,  in  which  was 
grazing  a  tethered  horse.  The  dogs  began  to  bark,  but 
recognizing  Anton,  they  became  silent  and  commenced 
wagging  their  shaggy  tails.  The  servants  came  rushing  out 
of  the  house  and  surrounded  the  young  master  with  loud 
manifestations  of  joy.  It  was  with  difficulty  that  he  was 
able  to  make  his  way  through  the  enthusiastic  crowd.  He 
ran  up  the  well-worn  steps ;  in  the  vestibule  he  was  met  by 
Egorovna,  who  tearfully  embraced  him. 

"  How  do  you  do,  how  do  you  do,  nurse  ?  "  he  repeated, 
pressing  the  good  old  woman  to  his  heart.  "And  my 
father  ?     Where  is  he  ?     How  is  he  ?  " 

At  that  moment  a  tall  old  man,  pale  and  thin,  in  a 
dressing-gown  and  cap,  entered  the  room,  dragging  one 
foot  after  the  other  with  difficulty. 

"Where  is  Volodka?"  said  he  in  a  weak  voice,  and 
Vladimir  embraced  his  father  with  affectionate  emotion. 

The  joy  proved  too  much  for  the  sick  man ;  he  grew 
weak,  his  legs  gave  way  beneath  him,  and  he  would  have 
fallen,  if  his  son  had  not  held  him  up. 

**  Why  did  you  get  out  of  bed  ?"  said  Egorovna  to  him. 
"  He  cannot  stand  upon  his  feet,  and  yet  he  wants  to  do 
the  same  as  other  people." 

The  old  man  was  carried  back  to  his  bedroom.  He  tried 
to  converse  with  his  son,  but  he  could  not  collect  his 
thoughts,  and  his  words  had  no  connection  with  each  other. 
He  became   silent   and   fell   into  a  kind  of  somnolence. 


Vladimir  was  struck  by  his  condition.  He  installed  himself 
in  the  bedroom  and  requested  to  be  left  alone  with  his 
I ;  father.  The  household  obeyed,  and  then  all  turned  towards 
ijGrisha  and  led  him  away  to  the  servants'  hall,  where  they 
j  I  gave  him  a  hearty  welcome  according  to  the  rustic  custom, 
lithe  while  they  wearied  him  with  questions  and  compli- 



A  FEW  days  after  his  arrival,  young  Doubrovsky 
wished  to  turn  his  attention  to  business,  but  his 
father  was  not  in  a  condition  to  give  him  the  necessary 
explanations,  and  Andrei  Gavrilovitch  had  no  confidential 
adviser.  Examining  his  papers,  Vladimir  only  found  the 
first  letter  of  the  assessor  and  a  rough  copy  of  his  father's 
reply  to  it.  From  these  he  could  not  obtain  any  clear  idea 
of  the  lawsuit,  and  he  determined  to  await  the  result,  trusting 
in  the  justice  of  his  father's  cause. 

Meanwhile  the  health  of  Andrei  Gavrilovitch  grew  worse 
from  hour  to  hour.  Vladimir  foresaw  that  his  end  was  not 
far  off,  and  he  never  left  the  old  man,  now  fallen  into  com- 
plete childishness. 

In  the  meantime  the  period  of  delay  had  expired  and  no 
appeal  had  been  presented.  Kistenevka  therefore  belonged 
to  Troekouroff.  Shabashkin  came  to  him,  and  with  a  pro- 
fusion of  salutations  and  congratulations,  inquired  when  His 
Excellency  intended  to  enter  into  possession  of  his  newly- 
acquired  property — would  he  go  and  do  so  himself,  or 
would  he  deign  to  commission  somebody  else  to  act  as  hisj 
representative  ? 

Kirila  Petrovitch  felt  troubled.  By  nature  he  was  not^ 
avaricious ;  his  desire  for  revenge  had  carried  him  too  far, 
and  he  now  felt  the  rebukings  of  his  conscience.  He  knew 
in  what  condition  his  adversary,  the  old  comrade  of  his 
youth,  lay,  and  his  victory  brought  no  joy  to  his  heart.  He 
glared  sternly  at  Shabashkin,  seeking  for  some  pretext  to 


vent  his  displeasure  upon  him,  but  not  finding  a  suitable 
lone,  he  said  to  him  in  an  angry  tone  : 

"  Be  off !    I  do  not  want  you  ! " 

Shabashkin,  seeing  that  he  was  not  in  a  good  humour, 
bowed  and  hastened  to  withdraw,  and  Kirila  Petrovitch,  left 
alone,  began  to  pace  up  and  down,  whistling:  "Thunder  of 
victory  resound  ! "  which,  with  him,  was  always  a  sure  sign 
of  unusual  agitation  of  mind. 

At  last  he  gave  orders  for  the  droshky  ^  to  be  got  ready, 
wrapped  himself  up  warmly  (it  was  already  the  end  of 
September),  and,  himself  holding  the  reins,  drove  out  of  the 

He  soon  caught  sight  of  the  house  of  Andrei  Gavrilovitch. 
Contradictory  feelings  filled  his  soul.  Satisfied  vengeance 
and  love  of  power  had,  to  a  certain  extent,  deadened  his 
more  noble  sentiments,  but  at  last  these  latter  prevailed. 
He  resolved  to  effect  a  reconciliation  with  his  old  neighbour, 
to  efface  the  traces  of  the  quarrel  and  restore  to  him  his 
property.  Having  eased  his  soul  with  this  good  intention, 
Kirila  Petrovitch  set  off  at  a  gallop  towards  the  residence 
of  his  neighbour  and  drove  straight  into  the  courtyard. 

At  that  moment  the  invalid  was  sitting  at  his  bedroom 
(vindow.  He  recognized  Kirila  Petrovitch— and  his  face 
issumed  an  expression  of  terrible  emotion :  a  livid  flush  re- 
placed his  usual  pallor,  his  eyes  gleamed  and  he  uttered  a 
few  unintelligible  sounds.  His  son,  who  was  sitting  there 
xamining  the  account  books,  raised  his  head  and  was  struck 
ay  the  change  in  his  father's  condition.  The  sick  man 
Dointed  with  his  finger  towards  the  courtyard  with  an  expres- 
sion of  rage  and  horror.  At  that  moment  the  voice  and 
leavy  tread  of  Egorovna  were  heard : 

** Master,  master!    Kirila  Petrovitch  has  come!    Kirila 

^  A  low  four-wheeled  carriage. 

176         POUSHKIN'S  PROSE  TALES. 

Petrovitch  is  on  the  steps ! "  she  cried.  .  .  .  **  Lord  God ! 
What  is  the  matter  ?    What  has  happened  to  him  ?  " 

Andrei  Gavrilovitch  had  hastily  gathered  up  the  skirts  of 
his  dressing-gown  and  was  preparing  to  rise  from  his  arm- 
chair. He  succeeded  in  getting  upon  his  feet — and  then 
suddenly  fell.  His  son  rushed  towards  him ;  the  old  man 
lay  insensible  and  without  breathing :  he  had  been  attacked 
by  paralysis. 

"  Quick,  quick  !  hasten  to  the  town  for  a  doctor  !  "  cried 

"  Kirila  Petrovitch  is  asking  for  you,"  said  a  servant, 
entering  the  room. 

Vladimir  gave  him  a  terrible  look. 

"  Tell  Kirila  Petrovitch  to  take  himself  off  as  quickly  as 
possible,  before  I  have  him  turned  out — go  ! " 

The  servant  gladly  left  the  room  to  execute  his  master's 
orders.     Egorovna  raised  her  hands  to  heaven. 

"  Little  father,"  she  exclaimed  in  a  piping  voice,"  you 
will  lose  your  head !  Kirila  Petrovitch  will  eat  us  all 

"  Silence,  nurse,"  said  Vladimir  angrily :  "  send  Anton  at 
once  to  the  town  for  a  doctor." 

Egorovna  left  the  room.  There  was  nobody  in  the  ante- 
chamber ;  all  the  domestics  had  run  out  into  the  courtyard 
to  look  at  Kirila  Petrovitch.  She  went  out  on  the  steps  and 
heard  the  servant  deliver  his  young  master's  reply.  Kirila 
Petrovitch  heard  it,  seated  in  the  droshky ;  his  face  be- 
came darker  than  night ;  he  smiled  contemptuously,  looked 
threateningly  at  the  assembled  domestics,  and  then  drove 
slowly  out  of  the  courtyard.  He  glanced  up  at  the  window 
where,  a  minute  before,  Andrei  Gavrilovitch  had  been 
sitting,  but  he  was  no  longer  there.  The  nurse  remained 
standing  on  the  steps,  forgetful  of  her  master's  injunctions. 
The  domestics  were  noisily  talking  of  what  had  just  occurred 


Suddenly  Vladimir  appeared  in  the  midst  of  them,  and  said 
abruptly : 

"There  is  no  need  for  a  doctor — my  father  is  dead  ! " 
General  consternation  followed  these  words.  The  domes- 
tics rushed  to  the  room  of  their  old  master.  He  was  lying 
in  the  armchair  in  which  Vladimir  had  placed  him ;  his  right 
arm  hung  down  to  the  ground,  his  head  was  bent  forward 
upon  his  chest — there  was  not  the  least  sign  of  life  in  his 
body,  which,  not  yet  cold,  was  already  disfigured  by  death, 
Egorovna  set  up  a  howl.  The  domestics  surrounded  the 
corpse,  which  was  left  to  their  care,  washed  it,  dressed  it  in 
a  uniform  made  in  the  year  1797,  amd  laid  it  out  on  the  same 
,table  at  which  for  so  many  years  they  had  waited  upon  their 




THE  funeral  took  place  the  third  day.  The  body  of  the 
poor  old  man  lay  in  the  coffin,  covered  with  a  shroud 
and  surrounded  by  candles.  The  dining-room  was  filled 
with  domestics,  ready  to  carry  out  the  corpse.  Vladimir 
and  the  servants  raised  the  coffin.  The  priest  went  in  front, 
followed  by  the  clerk,  chanting  the  prayers  for  the  dead. 
The  master  of  Kistenevka  crossed  the  threshold  of  his  house 
for  the  last  time.  The  coffin  was  carried  through  the  wood 
— the  church  lay  just  behind  it.  The  day  was  clear  and 
cold ;  the  autumn  leaves  were  falling  from  the  trees.  On 
emerging  from  the  wood,  they  saw  before  them  the  wooden 
church  of  Kistenevka  and  the  cemetery  shaded  by  old  lime 
trees.  There  reposed  the  body  of  Vladimir's  mother ;  there, 
be'^ide  her  tomb,  a  new  grave  had  been  dug  the  day  before. 
The  church  was  full  of  the  Kistenevka  peasantry,  come  to 
render  the  last  homage  to  their  master.  Young  Doubrovsky 
stood  in  the  chancel ;  he  neither  wept  nor  prayed,  but  the 
expression  of  his  face  was  terrible.  The  sad  ceremony  came 
to  an  end.  Vladimir  approached  first  to  take  leave  of  the 
corpse,  after  him  came  the  domestics.  The  lid  was  brought 
and  nailed  upon  the  coffin.  The  women  wept  aloud,  and 
the  men  frequently  wiped  away  their  tears  with  their  fists. 
Vladimir  and  three  of  the  servants  carried  the  coffin  to  the 
cemetery,  accompanied  by  the  whole  village.  The  coffin 
was  lowered  into  the  grave,  all  present  threw  upon  it  a  hand- 
ful of  earth,  the  pit  was  filled  up,  the  crowd  saluted  for  the 
last  time  and  then  dispersed.     Vladimir  hastily  departed, 


got  ahead  of  everybody,  and  disappeared  into  the  Kistenevka 

Egorovna,  in  the  name  of  her  master,  invited  the  pope 
and  all  the  clergy  to  a  funeral  dinner,  informing  them  that 
her  young  master  did  not  intend  being  present. 

Then  Father  Anissim,  his  wife  Fedorovna  and  the  clerk 
took  their  way  to  the  manor-house,  discoursing  with  Egorovna 
upon  the  virtues  of  the  deceased  and  upon  what,  in  all  pro- 
bability, awaited  his  heir.  The  visit  of  Troekouroff  and  the 
reception  given  to  him  were  already  known  to  the  whole 
neighbourhood,  and  the  local  politicians  predicted  that 
serious  consequences  would  result  from  it. 

"  What  is  to  be,  will  be,"  said  the  pope's  wife :  "  but  it 
will  be  a  pity  if  Vladimir  Andreivitch  does  not  become  our 
master.  He  is  a  fine  young  fellow,  there  is  no  denying 

**  And  who  is  to  be  our  master  if  he  is  not  to  be  ?  "  inter- 
rupted Egorovna.  "  Kirila  Petrovitch  need  not  put  himself 
out — he  has  not  got  a  coward  to  deal  with.  My  young 
falcon  will  know  how  to  defend  himself,  and  with  God's 
help,  he  will  not  lack  friends.  Kirila  Petrovitch  is  too 
overweening ;  and  yet  he  slunk  away  with  his  tail  between 
his  legs  when  my  Grishka  ^  cried  out  to  him :  *  Be  off,  you 
old  cur  !    Clear  out  of  the  place  ! ' " 

"  Oh !  Egorovna,"  said  the  clerk,  "  however  could  he 
bring  his  tongue  to  utter  such  words  ?  I  think  I  would  rather 
bring  myself  to  face  the  devil,  than  look  askant  at  Kirila 
Petrovitch.  As  you  look  at  him,  you  become  terrified,  and 
your  very  backbone  seems  to  curve  ! " 

"  Vanity,  vanity  ! "  said  the  priest :  "  the  service  for  the 
dead  will  some  day  be  chanted  for  Kirila  Petrovitch,  as  to- 
day for  Andrei  Gavrilovitch ;  the  funeral  may  perhaps  be 

*  Diminutive  of  Gregory. 

i8o  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

more  imposing,  and  more  guests  may  be  invited ;  but  are 
not  all  equal  in  the  sight  of  God  ?  " 

"  Oh,  father,  we  wanted  to  invite  all  the  neighbourhood, 
but  Vladimir  Andreivitch  did  not  wish  it.  Don't  be 
alarmed,  we  have  plenty  to  entertain  people  with.  .  .  .  but 
what  would  you  have  had  us  do  ?  At  all  events,  if  there  are 
not  many  people,  I  can  treat  you  well,  my  dear  friends." 

This  enticing  promise  and  the  hope  of  finding  a  toothsome 
pie,  caused  the  talkers  to  quicken  their  steps,  and  they 
safely  reached  the  manor-house,  where  the  table  was  already 
laid  and  brandy  served  out. 

Meanwhile  Vladimir  advanced  further  into  the  depth  ot 
the  wood,  endeavouring  by  exercise  and  fatigue  to  deaden 
the  affliction  of  his  soul.  He  walked  on  without  taking  any 
notice  of  the  road ;  the  branches  constantly  grazed  and 
scratched  him,  and  his  feet  continually  sank  into  the  swamp 
— he  observed  nothing.  At  last  he  reached  a  small  glade 
surrounded  by  trees  on  every  side ;  a  little  stream  wound 
silently  through  the  trees,  half-stripped  of  their  leaves  by  the 
autumn.  Vladimir  stopped,  sat  down  upon  the  cold  turf, 
and  thoughts,  each  more  gloomy  than  the  other,  oppressed 
his  soul.  .  .  .  He  felt  his  loneliness  very  keenly ;  the  future 
appeared  to  him  enveloped  in  terrible  clouds.  Troekou- 
roff's  enmity  foreboded  fresh  misfortunes  for  him.  His 
modest  heritage  might  pass  from  him  into  the  hands  of 
a  stranger,  in  which  case  beggary  awaited  him.  For  a  long 
time  he  sat  quite  motionless  in  the  same  place,  observing 
the  gentle  flow  of  the  stream,  bearing  along  on  its  surface  a 
few  withered  leaves,  and  vividly  representing  to  him  the 
analogy  of  life.  At  last  he  observed  that  it  began  to  grow 
dark  ;  he  arose  and  sought  for  the  road  home,  but  for  a  long 
time  he  wandered  about  the  unknown  wood  before  he 
stumbled  upon  the  path  which  led  straight  up  to  the  gate  of 
his  house. 


He  had  not  gone  far  before  he  met  the  priest  coming  to- 
wards him  with  all  his  clergy.  The  thought  immediately 
occurred  to  him  that  this  foreboded  misfortune.^  He  involun- 
tarily turned  aside  and  disappeared  behind  the  trees.  The 
priests  had  not  observed  him,  and  they  continued  talking  very 
earnestly  among  themselves. 

"  Fly  from  evil  and  do  good,"  said  the  priest  to  his  wife. 
"  There  is  no  need  for  us  to  remain  here  ;  it  does  not  con- 
cern us,  however  the  business  may  end." 

The  priest's  wife  made  some  reply,  but  Vladimir  could  not 
hear  what  she  said. 

Approaching  the  house,  he  saw  a  crowd  of  people  ;  peas- 
ants and  servants  of  the  household  were  flocking  into  the 
courtyard.  In  the  distance  Vladimir  could  hear  an  unusual 
noise  and  murmur  of  voices.  Near  the  coach-house  stood 
two  troikas.  On  the  steps  several  unknown  men  in  uniform 
were  seemingly  engaged  in  conversation. 

"What  does  this  mean?"  he  asked  angrily  of  Anton, 
who  ran  forward  to  meet  him.  "  Who  are  these  people,  and 
what  do  they  want  ?  " 

"  Oh,  father  Vladimir  Andreivitch,"  replied  Anton,  out 
of  breath,  "  the  Court  has  come.  They  are  giving  us  over  to 
Troekouroff,  they  are  taking  us  from  your  Honour  !  .  .  ." 

Vladimir  hung  down  his  head;  his  people  surrounded 
their  unhappy  master. 

"You  are  our  father,"  they  cried,  kissing  his  hands. 
"  We  want  no  other  master  but  you.  We  will  die,  but 
we  will  not  leave  you.  Give  us  the  order,  Your  Lordship, 
and  we  will  soon  settle  matters  with  the  Court." 

Vladimir  looked  at  them,  and  dark  thoughts  rose  within 

"  Keep  quiet,"  he  said  to  them  :  "  I  will  speak  to  the 

^  To  meet  a  priest  is  considered  a  bad  omen  in  Russia. 

1 82      poushkin's  prose  tales. 

**  That's  it — speak  to  them,  father,"  shouted  the  crowd  : 
"  put  the  accursed  wretches  to  shame  !  " 

Vladimir  approached  the  officials.  Shabashkin,  with  his 
cap  on  his  head,  stood  with  his  arms  akimbo,  looking 
proudly  around  him.  The  sheriff,  a  tall  stout  man,  of  about 
fifty  years  of  age,  with  a  red  face  and  a  moustache,  seeing 
Doubrovsky  approach,  cleared  his  throat  and  called  out  in  a 
hoarse  voice : 

"  And  therefore  I  repeat  to  you  what  I  have  already 
said  :  by  the  decision  of  the  district  Court,  you  now  belong 
to  Kirila  Petrovitch  Troekouroff,  who  is  here  represented  by 
M.  Shabashkin.  Obey  him  in  everything  that  he  orders 
you ;  and  you,  women,  love  and  honour  him,  as  he  loves  you." 

At  this  witty  joke  the  sheriff  began  to  laugh.  Shabashkin 
and  the  other  officials  followed  his  example.  Vladimir 
boiled  over  with  indignation. 

"  Allow  me  to  ask,  what  does  all  this  mean  ?  "  he  inquired, 
with  pretended  calmness,  of  the  jocular  sheriff. 

"  It  means,"  replied  the  witty  official,  *'  that  we  have  come 
to  place  Kirila  Petrovitch  Troekouroff  in  possession  of  this 
property,  and  to  request  certain  others  to  take  themselves  ofi 
for  good  arid  all  1 " 

"  But  I  think  that  you  could  have  communicated  all  this  to 
me  first,  rather  than  to  my  peasants,  and  announced  to  the 
landholder  the  decision  of  the  authorities " 

"The  former  landowner,  Andrei  G^vrilovitch,  is  dead 
according  to  the  will  of  God;  but  who  are  you?"  said 
Shabashkin,  with  an  insolent  look.  "  We  do  not  know  you, 
and  we  don't  want  to  know  you." 

"  Your  Honour,  that  is  our  young  master,"  said  a  voice  in 
the  crowd. 

"  Who  dared  to  open  his  mouth  ?  "  said  the  sheriff,  in  a 
terrible  tone.  "  That  your  master  ?  Your  master  is  KiriU 
•  Petrovitch  Troekouroff.  ....  do  you  hear,  idiots  ?  " 


"  Nothing  of  the  kind  ! "  said  the  same  voice. 

"  But  this  is  a  revolt ! "  shrieked  the  sheriff.  "  Hi,  baiHff, 
this  way ! " 

The  baiHff  stepped  forward. 

*'  Find  out  immediately  who  it  was  that  dared  to  answer 
me.     I'll  teach  him  a  lesson  ! " 

The  bailiff  turned  towards  the  crowd  and  asked  who  had 
spoken.  But  all  remained  silent.  Soon  a  murmur  was 
heard  at  the  back;  it  gradually  grew  louder,  and  in  a 
minute  it  broke  out  into  a  terrible  wail.  The  sheriff 
lowered  his  voice  and  was  about  to  try  to  persuade  them 
to  be  calm. 

"  Why  do  you  stand  looking  at  him  ?  "  cried  the  servants : 
"  Come  on,  lads,  forward  ! "    And  the  crowd  began  to  move. 

Shabashkin  and  the  other  members  of  the  Court  rushed 
mto  the  vestibule,  and  closed  the  door  behind  them. 

"  Seize  them,  lads  ! "  cried  the  same  voice,  and  the  crowd 
pressed  forward. 

"  Hold  !  "  cried  Doubrovsky  :  "  idiots  !  what  are  you 
doing  ?  You  will  ruin  yourselves  and  me,  too.  Go  home 
all  of  you,  and  leave  me  to  ihyself.  Don't  fear,  the  Czar  is 
merciful :  I  will  present  a  petition  to  him — he  will  not  let  us 
be  made  the  victims  of  an  injustice.  We  are  all  his  children. 
But  how  can  he  take  your  part,  if  you  begin  rebelling  and 
plundering  ?  " 

This  speech  of  young  Doubrovsky's,  his  sonorous  voice 
and  imposing  appearance,  produced  the  desired  effect.  The 
crowd  became  quiet  and  dispersed ;  the  courtyard  became 
empty,  the  officials  of  the  Court  still  remained  inside  the 
house.  Vladimir  sadly  ascended  the  steps.  Shabashkin 
opened  the  door,  and  with  obsequious  bows  began  to  thank 
Doubrovsky  for  his  generous  intervention. 

Vladimir  listened  to  him  with  contempt  and  made  no 

184  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

"We  have  resolved,"  continued  the  assessor,  "with  your 
permission,  to  remain  here  for  the  night,  as  it  is  already 
dark,  and  your  peasants  might  attack  us  on  the  road.  Be 
kind  enough  to  order  some  hay  to  be  put  down  for  us  on 
the  parlour  floor ;  as  soon  as  it  is  daylight,  we  will  take  our 

"  Do  what  you  please,"  replied  Doubrovsky  drily  :  "  I  am 
no  longer  master  here." 

With  these  words  he  entered  into  his  father's  room  and 
locked  the  door  behind  hira. 



"  A  ND  so,  all  is  finished!"  said  Vladimir  to  himself. 
J~\.  "  This  morning  I  had  a  corner  and  a  piece  of 
bread ;  to-morrow  I  must  leave  the  house  where  I  was  born. 
My  father,  with  the  ground  where  he  reposes,  will  belong  to 
that  hateful  man,  the  cause  of  his  death  and  of  my 
ruin  ! "  .  .  .  Vladimir  clenched  his  teeth  and  fixed  his  eyes 
upon  the  portrait  of  his  mother.  The  artist  had  represented 
her  leaning  upon  a  balustrade,  in  a  white  morning  dress, 
with  a  rose  in  her  hair. 

"  And  that  portrait  will  fall  into  the  hands  of  the  enemy 
of  my  family,"  thought  Vladimir.  "  It  will  be  thrown  into  a 
lumber  room  together  with  broken  chairs,  or  hung  up  in  the 
ante-room,  to  become  an  object  of  derision  for  his  dog- 
keepers  ;  and  in  her  bedroom,  in  the  room  where  my  father 
died,  will  be  installed  his  bailiff,  or  his  harem.  No,  no  !  he 
shall  not  have  possession  of  the  house  of  mourning,  from 
which  he  is  driving  me  out." 

Vladimir  clenched  his  teeth  again ;  terrible  thoughts  rose 
up  in  his  mind.  The  voices  of  the  officials  reached  him ; 
they  were  giving  their  orders,  demanding  first  one  thing  and 
then  another,  and  disagreeably  disturbing  him  in  the  midst 
of  his  painful  meditations. 

At  last  all  became  quiet. 

Vladimir  unlocked  the  drawers  and  boxes  and  began  to 
examine  the  papers  of  the  deceased.  They  consisted  for  the 
most  part  of  farming  accounts  and  letters  connected  with 
various  matters  of  business.  Vladimir  tore  them  up  without 

1 86         POUSHKIN'S  PROSE  TALES. 

reading  them.  Among  them  he  came  across  a  packet  with 
the  inscription :  "  Letters  from  my  wife."  A  prey  to  deep 
emotion,  Vladimir  began  to  read  them.  They  had  been 
written  during  the  Turkish  campaign,  and  were  addressed  to 
the  army  from  Kistenevka.  Madame  Doubrovsky  described 
to  her  husband  her  life  in  the  country  and  her  business  con- 
cerns, complained  with  tenderness  of  the  separation,  and 
implored  him  to  return  home  as  soon  as  possible  to  the  arms 
of  his  loving  wife.  In  one  of  these  letters,  she  expressed  to 
him  her  anxiety  concerning  the  health  of  little  Vladimir ;  in 
another  she  rejoiced  over  his  early  intelligence,  and  pre. 
dieted  for  him  a  happy  and  brilliant  future.  Vladimir  was 
so  absorbed  in  his  reading,  that  he  forgot  everything  else  in 
the  world  as  his  mind  conjured  up  visions  of  domestic 
happiness,  and  he  did  not  observe  how  the  time  was  passing : 
the  clock  upon  the  wall  struck  eleven.  Vladimir  placed  the 
letters  in  his  pocket,  took  up  a  candle  and  left  the  room.  In 
the  parlour  the  officials  were  sleeping  on  the  floor.  Upon 
the  table  were  tumblers  which  they  had  emptied,  and  a 
strong  smell  of  rum  pervaded  the  entire  room.  Vladimir 
turned  from  them  with  disgust,  and  passed  into  the  ante- 
room. There  all  was  dark.  Somebody,  seeing  the  light, 
crouched  into  a  corner.  Turning  the  light  towards  him, 
Vladimir  recognized  Arkhip  the  blacksmith. 

"  Why  are  you  here  ?  "  he  asked,  in  surprise. 

"  I  wanted — I  came  to  find  out  if  they  were  all  in  the 
house,"  replied  Arkhip,  in  a  low  faltering  voice. 

"  And  why  have  you  got  your  axe  ?  " 

"  Why  have  I  got  my  axe  ?  Can  anybody  go  about  now- 
adays without  an  axe  ?  These  officials  are  such  impudent 
knaves,  that  one  never  knows " 

*'  You  are  drunk ;  throw  the  axe  down  and  go  to  bed." 

"  I  drunk  ?  Father  Vladimir  Andreivitch,  God  is  my 
witness  that  not  a  single  drop  of  brandy  has  passed  my 


lips,  nor  has  the  thought  of  such  a  thing  entered  my  mind. 
Was  ever  such  a  thing  heard  of?  These  clerks  have  taken 
it  into  their  heads  to  rule  over  us  and  to  drive  our  master 

out    of   the    manor-house How   they   snore,    the 

wretches  !  I  should  like  to  put  an  end  to  the  whole  lot  of 
them  at  once." 

Doubrovsky  frowned. 

**  Listen,  Arkhip,"  said  he,  after  a  short  pause :  "  Get 
such  ideas  out  of  your  head.  It  is  not  the  fault  of  the 
officials.     Light  the  lantern  and  follow  me." 

Arkhip  took  the  candle  out  of  his  master's  hand,  found 
the  lantern  behind  the  stove,  lit  it,  and  then  both  of  them 
softly  descended  the  steps  and  proceeded  around  the  court- 
yard. The  watchman  began  beating  upon  an  iron  plate ;  the 
dogs  commenced  to  bark. 

**  Who  is  on  the  watch  ?  "  asked  Doubrovsky. 

**  We,  little  father,"  replied  a  thin  voice  :  "  Vassilissa  and 

"  Go  home,"  said  Doubrovsky  to  them,  "  you  are  not 

"  You  can  have  a  holiday,"  added  Arkhip. 

"  Thank  you,  benefactor,"  replied  the  women,  and  they 
immediately  returned  home. 

Doubrovsky  walked  on  further.  Two  men  approached 
him  :  they  challenged  him,  and  Doubrovsky  recognized  the 
voices  of  Anton  and  Grisha. 

"  Why  are  you  not  in  bed  and  asleep  ?  "  he  asked  them. 

'*  This  is  no  time  for  us  to  think  of  sleep,"  replied  Anton. 
*'  Who  would  have  thought  that  we  should  ever  have  come 
to  this?" 

"Softly,"  interrupted  Doubrovsky.  "Where  is  Ego- 
rovna  ?  " 

"  In  the  manor-house,  in  her  room,"  replied  Grisha. 

**  Go  and  bring  her  here,  and  make  all  our  people  get  out 

1 88         POUSHKIN*S  PROSE  TALES. 

of  the   house;  let  not   a   soul   remain  in   it   except   the 
officials ;  and  you,  Anton,  get  the  cart  ready." 
.  Grisha  departed;  a  minute  afterwards  he  returned  with 
his  mother.    The  old  woman  had  not  undressed  that  night ; 
with  the  exception  of  the  officials,  nobody  closed  an  eye. 

**  Are  all  here  ?"  asked  Doubrovsky.  "  Has  anybody  been 
left  in  the  house  ?  " 

•*  Nobody,  except  the  clerks,"  replied  Grisha. 

"  Bring  here  some  hay  or  some  straw,"  said  Doubrovsky. 

The  servants  ran  to  the  stables  and  returned  with  armfuls 
of  hay. 

'*  Put  it  under  the  steps — that's  it  Now,  my  lads,  a 

Arkhip  opened  the  lantern  and  Doubrovsky  kindled  a 

"  Wait  a  moment,"  said  he  to  Arkhip :  "  I  think,  in  my 
hurry,  that  I  locked  the  doors  of  *the  hall.  Go  quickly  and 
open  them." 

Arkhip  ran  to  the  vestibule :  the  doors  were  opeiL  He 
locked  them,  muttering  in  an  undertone :  "It's  likely  that 
I'll  leave  them  open  ! "  and  then  returned  to  Doubrovsky. 

Doubrovsky  applied  the  torch  to  the  hay,  which  burst 
into  a  blaze,  the  flames  rising  to  a  great  height  and  illumi- 
nating the  whole  courtyard. 

"  Alas  ! "  cried  Egorovna  plaintively :  "  Vladimir  Andrei- 
vitch,  what  are  you  doing?" 

"  Silence  ! "  said  Doubrovsky.  "  Now,  children,  fare- 
well !  I  am  going  where  God  may  direct  me.  Be  happy 
with  your  new  master." 

"Our  father,  our  benefactor!"  cried  the  peasants,  "we 
will  die — but  we  will  not  leave  you,  we  will  go  with  you." 

The  horses  were  ready.  Doubrovsky  took  his  seat  in  the 
cart  with  Grisha ;  Anton  whipped  the  horses  and  they  drove 
out  of  the  courtyard. 


In  one  moment  the  whole  house  was  enveloped  in  flames 
The  floors  cracked  and  gave  way;  the  burning  beams 
began  to  fall ;  a  red  smoke  rose  above  the  roof,  and  there 
arose  piteous  groans  and  cries  of  **  Help,  help  ! " 

"Shout  away  ! "  said  Arkhip,  with  a  malicious  smile,  con- 
templating the  fire. 

"  Dear  Arkhip,"  said  Egorovna  to  him,  **  save  them,  the 
scoundrels,  and  God  will  reward  you." 

"  Let  them  shout,"  replied  the  blacksmith. 

At  that  moment  the  oflicials  appeared  at  the  window, 
endeavouring  to  burst  the  double  sash.  But  at  the  same 
instant  the  roof  fell  in  with  a  crash — and  the  cries  ceased. 

Soon  all  the  peasants  came  pouring  into  the  courtyard. 
The  women,  screaming  wildly,  hastened  to  save  their  eff'ects ; 
the  children  danced  about  admiring  the  conflagration. 
The  sparks  flew  up  in  a  fiery  shower,  setting  light  to  the 

"  Now  everything  is  right ! "  said  Arkhip.  **  How  it 
burns  !     It  must  be  a'  grand  sight  frcim  Pokrovskoe." 

At  that  moment  a  new  apparition  attracted  his  attention. 
A  cat  ran  along  the  roof  of  a  burning  barn,  without  knowing 
where  to  leap  from.  Flames  surrounded  it  on  every  side. 
The  poor  creature  cried  for  help  with  plaintive  mewings; 
the  children  screamed  with  laughter  on  seeing  its  despair. 

"  What  are  you  laughing  at,  you  little  demons?  "  said  the 
blacksmith,  angrily.  **  Do  you  not  fear  God?  One  of  God's 
creatures  is  perishing,  and  you  rejoice  over  it."  Then 
placing  a  ladder  against  the  burning  roof,  /he  mounted  up 
towards  the  cat.  She  understood  his  intention,  and,  with 
grateful  eagerness,  clutched  hold  of  his  sleeve.  The  half- 
burnt  blacksmith  descended  with  his  burden. 

"And  now,  lads,  good  bye,"  he  said  to  the  dismayed 
peasants  :  "  there  is  nothing  more  for  me  to  do  here.  May 
you  be  happy.     Do  not  think  too  badly  of  mQ," 


The  blacksmith  took  his  departure.  The  fire  raged  for 
some  time  longer,  and  at  last  went  out.  Piles  of  red-hot 
embers  glowed  brightly  in  the  darkness  of  the  night,  while 
round  about  them  wandered  the  burnt-out  inhabitants  of 



THE  next  day  the  news  of  the  fire  spread  -through  all 
the  neighbourhood.  Everybody  explained  it  in  a 
different  way.  Some  maintained  that  Doubrovsky's  servants, 
having  got  drunk  at  the  funeral,  had  set  fire  to  the  house 
through  carelessness ;  others  blamed  the  officials,  who  were 
drunk  also  in  their  new  quarters.  Some  guessed  the  truth, 
and  affirmed  that  the  author  of  the  terrible  calamity  was 
Doubrovsky  himself,  urged  on  to  the  committal  of  the  deed 
by  the  promptings  of  resentment  and  despair.  Many  main- 
tained that  he  had  himself  perished  in  the  flames  with  the 
officials  and  all  his  servants. 

Troekouroff  came  the  next  day  to  the  scene  of  the  con- 
flagration, and  conducted  the  inquest  himself.  It  was 
stated  that  the  sheriff,  the  assessor  of  the  land  Court,  the 
attorney  and  his  clerk,  as  well  as  Vladimir  Doubrovsky,  the 
nurse  Egorovna,  the  servant  Grisha,  the  coachman  Anton, 
and  the  blacksmith  Arkhip  had  disappeared — nobody  knew 
where.  All  the  servants  declared  that  the  officials  perished 
at  the  moment  when  the  roof  fell  in.  Their  charred  re- 
mains in  fact  were  discovered.  The  women,  Vassilissa  and 
Loukeria,  said  that  they  had  seen  Doubrovsky  and  Arkhip 
the  blacksmith  a  few  minutes  before  the  fire.  The  black- 
smith Arkhip,  according  to  the  general  showing,  was 
alive,  and  was  probably  the  principal,  if  not  the  sole 
author  of    the   fire.      Strong   suspicions    fell   upon    Dou- 


192         POUSHKIN*S  PROSE  TALES. 

brovsky.  Kirila  Petrovitch  sent  to  the  Governor  a  detailed 
account  of  all  that  had  happened,  and  a  new  suit  was 

Soon  other  reports  furnished  fresh  food  for  curiosity  and 
gossip.  Brigands  appeared  and  spread  terror  throughout 
the  whole  neighbourhood.  The  measures  taken  against 
them  proved  unavailing.  Robberies,  each  more  daring 
than  the  other,  followed  one  after  another.  There  was  no 
security  either  on  the  roads  or  in  the  villages.  Several 
troikas^  filled  with  brigands,  traversed  the  whole  province 
in  open  daylight,  stopping  travellers  and  the  mail.  The 
villages  were  visited  by  them,  and  the  manor-houses  were 
attacked  and  set  on  fire.  The  chief  ^of  the  band  had 
acquired  a  great  reputation  for  intelligence,  daring,  and  a 
sort  of  generosity.  Wonders  were  related  of  him.  The 
name  of  Doubrovsky  was  upon  every  lip.  Everybody  was 
convinced  that  it  was  he,  and  nobody  else,  who  commanded 
the  daring  robbers.  One  thing  was  remarkable :  the 
domains  and  property  of  Troekouroff  were  spared.  The 
brigands  had  not  attacked  a  single  barn  of  his,  nor  stopped 
a  single  load  belonging  to  him.  With  his  usual  arrogance, 
Troekouroff  attributed  this  exception  to  the  fear  which  he 
had  inspired  throughout  the  whole  province,  as  well  as  to 
the  excellent  police  which  he  had  organized  in  his  villages. 
At  first  the  neighbours  smiled  at  the  presumption  of  Troe- 
kouroff, and  everyone  expected  that  the  uninvited  guests 
would  visit  Pokrovskoe,  where  they  would  find  something 
worth  having,  but  at  last  they  were  compelled  to  agree  and 
confess  that  the  brigands  showed  him  unaccountable  respect. 
Troekouroff  triumphed,  and  at  the  news  of  each  fresh  ex- 
ploit on  the  part  of  Doubrovsky,  he  indulged  in  ironical 
remarks  at  the  expense  of  the  Governor,  the  sheriffs,  and 
the  regimental  commanders,  who  always  allowed  the  brigand 
chief  to  escape  with  impunity. 


Meanwhile  the  ist  of  October  arrived,  the  day  of  the 
annual  church  festival  in  Troekouroff's  village.  But  before 
we  proceed  to  describe  further  events,  we  must  acquaint  the 
reader  with  some  personages  who  are  new  to  him,  or  whom 
we  merely  mentioned  at  the  beginning  of  our  story. 




THE  reader  has  probably  already  divined  that  the 
daughter  of  Kirila  Petrovitch,  of  whom  we  have  as 
yet  said  but  very  little,  is  the  heroine  of  our  story.  At  the 
period  about  which  we  are  writing,  she  was  seventeen  years 
old,  and  in  the  full  bloom  of  her  beauty.  Her  father  loved  her 
to  the  verge  of  folly,  but  treated  her  with  his  charatteristic 
wilfulness,  at  one  time  endeavouring  to  gratify  her  slightest 
whims,  at  another  terrifying  her  by  his  coarse  ^nd  some- 
times brutal  behaviour.  Convinced  of  her  attachment,  he 
c:nild  yet  never  gain  her  confidence.  .  She  was  accustomed 
to  conceal  from  hinv  her  thoughts  and  feelings,  because  she 
never  knew  in  what  manner  they  would  be  received.  She 
had  no  companions,  and  had  grown  up  in  solitude.  The 
wives  and  daughters  of  the  neighbours  rarely  visited  at  the 
house  of  Kirila  Petrovitch,  whose  usual  conversation  and 
amusements  demanded  the  companionship  of  men,  and  not 
the  presence  of  ladies.  Our  beauty  rarely  appeared  among 
the  guests  who  were  invited  to  her  father's  house.  The 
extensive  library,  consisting  for  the  most  part  of  works  of 
French  writers  of  the  eighteenth  century,  was  given  over  to 
her  charge.  Her  father  never  read  anything  except  the 
"  Perfect  Cook,"  and  could  not  guide  her  in  the  choice  of 
books,  and  Masha,  after  having  dipped  into  works  of  various 
kinds,  had  naturally  given  her  preference  to  romances.  In 
this  manner  she  went  on  completing  her  education,  first 
begun  upder  the  direction  of  Mademoiselle  Micheau,  in 
whom  Kirila  Petrovitch  reposed  great  confidence,  and  whom 


he  was  at  last  obliged  to  send  away  secretly  to  another 
estate,  when  the  results  of  this  friendship  became  too 

Mademoiselle  Micheau  left  behind  her  a  rather  agreeable 
recollection.  She  was  a  good-natured  girl,  and  had  never 
misused  the  influence  which  she  evidently  exercised  over 
Kirila  Petrovitch,  in  which  she  differed  from  the  other 
confidants,  whom  he  constantly  kept  changing.  Kirila  Petro- 
vitch himself  seemed  to  like  her  more  than  the  others,  and  a 
dark-eyed,  roguish-looking  little  fellow  of  nine,  recalling 
the  southern  features  of  Mademoiselle  Micheau,  was  being 
brought  up  by  him  and  was  recognized  as  his  son,  notwith- 
standing the  fact  that  quite  a  number  of  bare-footed  lads 
ran  about  in  front  of  his  windows,  who  were  as  like  Kirila 
Petrovitch  as  one  drop  of  water  is  to  another,  and  who  were 
inscribed  as  forming  part  of  his  household.  Kirila  Petro- 
yitch  had  sent  to  Moscow  for  a  French  tutor  for  his  little 
son,  Sasha,^  and  this  tutor  came  to  Pokrovskoe  at  the  time 
of  the  events  that  we  are  now  describing. 

This  tutor,  by  his  prepossessing  appearance  and  simple 
manners,  produced  a  very  agreeable  impression  upon  the 
mind  of  Kirila  Petrovitch.  He  presented  to  the  latter  his 
credentials,  and  a  letter  from  one  of  Troekouroff's  relations, 
with  whom  he  had  lived  as  tutor  for  four  years.  Kirila 
Petrovitch  examined  all  these,  and  was  dissatisfied  only  with 
the  youthfulness  of  the  Frenchman,  not  because  he  con- 
sidered this  agreeable  defect  incompatible  with  the  patience 
and  experience  necessary  for  the  unhappy  calling  of  a  tutor, 
but  because  he  had  doubts  of  his  own,  which  he  immediately 
resolved  to  have  cleared  up.  For  this  purpose  he  ordered 
Masha  to  be  sent  %o  him.  Kirila  Petrovitch  did  not  speak 
French,  and  she  acted  as  interpreter  for  him. 

*  Diminutive  of  Alexander. 

196  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

"Come  here,  Masha:  tell  this  Monsieur  that  I  accept 
him  only  on  condition  that  he  does  not  venture  to  pay  court 
to  my  girls,  for  if  he  should  do  so,  the  son  of  a  dog,  I'll  . .  . 
Translate  that  to  him,  Masha." 

Masha  blushed,  and  turning  to  the  tutor,  told  him  in 
French  that  her  father  counted  upon  his  modesty  and  orderly 

The  Frenchman  bowed  to  her,  and  replied  that  he  hoped 
to  merit  esteem,  even  if  favour  were  not  shown  to  him- 

Masha  translated  his  reply  word  for  word. 

"  Very  well,  very  well,"  said  Kirila  Petrovitch,  "  he  needs 
neither  favour  nor  esteem.  His  business  is  to  look  after 
Sasha  and  teach  him  grammar  and  geography — translate 
that  to  him." 

Maria  Kirilovna  softened  the  rude  expressions  of  her 
father  in  translating  them,  and  Kirila  Petrovitch  dismissed 
his  Frenchman  to  the  wing  of  the  house  in  which  his  room 
was  situated.  , 

Masha  had  not  given  a  thought  to  the  young  Frenchman. 
Brought  up  with  aristocratic  prejudices,  a  tutor,  in  her  eyes, 
was  only  a  sort  of  servant  or  artizan ;  and  servants  or  artizans 
did  not  seem  to  her  to  be  men  at  all.  Nor  did  she  observe 
the  impression  that  she  had  produced  upon  Monsieur 
Desforges,  nor  his  confusion,  nor  his  agitation,  nor  the 
tremor  in  his  voice.  For  several  days  afterwards,  she  met 
him  very  frequently,  but  without  honouring  him  with  much 
attention.  In  an  unexpected  manner,  however,  she  received 
quite  a  new  impression  with  respect  to  him. 

In  the  courtyard  of  Kirila  Petrovitch  there  were  usually 
kept  several  young  bears,  and  they  formed  one  of  the  chief 
amusements  of  the  master  of  Pokrovskoe.  While  they  were 
young,  they  were  brought  every  day  into  the  parlour,  where 
Kirila  Petrovitch  used  to  spend  whole  hours  in  amusing 
himself  with  them,  setting  them  at  cats  and  young  dogs. 


When  they  were  grown  up,  they  were  attached  to  a  chain, 
to  await  being  baited  in  earnest.  Sometimes  they  were 
brought  out  in  front  of  the  windows  of  the  manor-house,  and 
an  empty  wine-cask,  studded  with  nails,  was  put  before  them. 
The  bear  would  sniff  it,  then  touch  it  gently,  and  getting  its 
paws  pricked,  it  would  become  angry  and  push  the  cask 
with  greater  force,  and  so  wound  itself  still  more.  The 
beast  would  then  work  itself  into  a  perfect  frenzy,  and  fling 
itself  upon  the  cask,  growling  furiously,  until  they  removed 
from  the  poor  animal  the'object  of  its  vain  rage.  Sometimes 
a  pair  of  bears  were  harnessed  to  a  telega^  then,  willingly  or 
unwillingly,  guests  were  placed  in  it,  and  the  bears  were 
allowed  to  gallop  wherever  chance  might  direct  them.  But 
the  best  joke  of  Kirila  Petrovitch's  was  as  follows  : 

A  starving  bear  used  to  be  shut  up  in  an  empty  room  and 
fastened  by  a  rope  to  a  ring  screwed  into  the  wall.  The 
rope  was  nearly  the  length  of  the  room,  so  that  only  the 
opposite  corner  was  out  of  the  reach  of  the  ferocious  beast. 
A  novice  was  generally  brought  to  the  door  of  this  room,  and, 
as  if  by  accident,  pushed  in  along  with  the  bear ;  the  door 
was  then  locked,  and  the  unhappy  victim  was  left  alone  with 
the  shaggy  hermit.  The  poor  guest,  with  torn  skirts  and 
scratched  hands,  soon  sought  the  safe  corner,  but  he  was 
sometimes  compelled  to  stand  for  three  whole  hours, 
pressed  against  the  wall,  watching  the  savage  beast,  two 
steps  from  him,  leaping  and  standing  on  its  hind  legs, 
growling,  tugging  at  the  rope  and  endeavouring  to  reach 
him.  Such  were  the  noble  amusements  of  a  Russian 
gentleman ! 

Some  days  after  the  arrival  of  the  French  tutor,  Troekouroff 
thought  of  him,  and  resolved  to  give  him  a  taste  of  the  bear's 
room.  For  this  purpose,  he  summoned  him  one  morning, 
and  conducted  him  along  several  dark  corridors;  suddenly 
a  side  door  opened — two  servants  pushed  the  Frenchman 

198  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

into  the  room  and  locked  the  door  after  him.  Recovering 
from  his  surprise,  the  tutor  perceived  the  chained  bear.  The 
animal  began  to  snort  and  to  sniff  at  his  visitor  from  a  dis- 
tance, and  suddenly  raising  himself  upon  his  hind  legs,  he  ad- 
vanced towards  him.  .  .  .  The  Frenchman  was  not  alarmed ; 
he  did  not  retreat  but  awaited  the  attack.  The  bear  drew 
near ;  Desforges  drew  from  his  pocket  a  small  pistol,  inserted 
it  in  the  ear  of  the  hungry  animal,  and  fired.  The  bear  rolled 
over.  •  Everybody  was  attracted  to  the  spot  by  the  report, 
the  door  was  opened,  and  Kirila  Petrovitch  entered,  as- 
tonished at  the  result  of  his  joke. 

Kirila  Petrovitch  wanted  an  explanation  of  the  whole 
affair.  Who  had  warned  Desforges  of  the  joke,  or  how 
came  he  to  have  a  loaded  pistol  in  his  pocket  ?  He  sent 
for  Masha.  Masha  came  and  interpreted  her  father's 
questions  to  the  Frenchman. 

"  I  never  heard  even  of  the  existence  of  the  bear,*'  replied 
Desforges,  "but  I  always  carry  a  pistol  about  with  me, 
because  I  do  not  intend  to  put  up  with  an  offence  for  which, 
on  account  of  my  calling,  I  cannot  demand  satisfaction." 

Masha  looked  at  him  in  astonishment  and  translated  his 
words  to  Kirila  Petrovitch.  Kirila  Petrovitch  made  no 
reply ;  he  ordered  the  bear  to  be  removed  and  its  skin  to  be 
taken  off;  then  turning  to  his  people,  he  said  : 

"  What  a  brave  fellow !  There  is  nothing  of  the  coward 
about  him.     By  the  Lord,  he  is  certainly  no  coward  ! " 

From  that  moment  he  took  a  liking  to  Desforges,  and 
never  thought  again  of  putting  him  to  the  proof. 

But  this  incident  produced  a  still  greater  impression  upon 
Maria  Kirilovna.  Her  imagination  had  been  struck:  she 
had  seen  the  dead  bear,  and  Desforges  standing  calmly  over 
it  and  talking  tranquilly  to  her.  She  saw  that  bravery  and 
proud  self-respect  did  not  belong  exclusively  to  one  class, 
and  from  that  moment  she  began  to  show  regard  for  the 


young  tutor,  and  this  regard  increased  from  day  to  day.  A 
certain  intimacy  sprang  up  between  them.  Masha  had  a 
beautiful  voice  and  great  musical  ability ;  Desforges  proposed 
to  give  her  lessons.  After  that  it  will  not  be  difficult  for  the 
reader  to  understand  that  Masha  fell  in  love  with  him  with- 
out acknowledging  it  to  herself. 




ON  the  eve  of  the  festival,  of  which  we  have  already 
spoken,  the  guests  began  to  arrive  at  Pokrovskoe. 
Some  were  accommodated  at  the  manor-house  and  in  the 
wings  attached  to  it ;  others  in  the  house  of  the  bailiflf ;  a 
third  party  was  quartered  upon  the  priest;  and  the  re- 
mainder upon  the  better  class  of  peasants.  The  stables 
were  filled  with  the  horses  of  the  visitors,  and  the  yards  and 
coach-houses  were  crowded  with  vehicles  of  every  sort.  At 
nine  o^clock  in  the  morning  the  bells  rang  for  mass,  and 
everybody  repaired  to  the  new  stone  church,  built  by  Kirila 
Petrovitch  and  annually  enriched  by  his  offerings.  The 
church  was  soon  crowded  with  such  a  number  of  dis- 
tinguished worshippers,  that  the  simple  peasants  could  find 
no  room  within  the  edifice,  and  had  to  stand  beneath  the 
porch  and  inside  the  railings.  The  mass  had  not  yet  begun  : 
they  were  waiting  for  Kirila  Petrovitch.  He  arrived  at  last 
in  a  caleche  drawn  by  six  horses,  and  walked  proudly  to  his 
place,  accompanied  by  Maria  Kirilovna.  The  eyes  of  both 
men  and  women  were  turned  upon  her — the  former  were 
astonished  at  her  beauty,  the  latter  examined  her  dress  with 
great  attention. 

The  mass  began.  The  household  singers  sang  in  the 
choir,  and  Kirila  Petrovitch  joined  in  with  them.  He  prayed 
without  looking  either  to  the  right  or  to  the  left,  and  with 
proud  humility  he  bowed  himself  to  the  ground  when  the 
deacon  in  a  loud  voice  mentioned  the  name  of  the  founder 
of  the  church. 


The  mass  came  to  an  end.^  Kirila  Petrovitch  was  the 
first  to  kiss  the  crucifix.  All  the  others  followed  him ;  the 
neighbours  approached  him  with  respect,  the  ladies  sur- 
rounded Masha.  Kirila  Petrovitch,  on  issuing  from  the 
church,  invited  everybody  to  dine  with  him,  then  he  seated 
himself  in  the  caliche  and  drove  home.  All  the  guests 
followed  after  him. 

The  rooms  ibegan  to  fill  with  the  visitors ;  every  moment 
new  faces  appeared,  and  it  was  with  difficulty  that  the  host 
could  be  approached.  The  ladies  sat  decorously  in  a 
semicircle,  dressed  in  antiquated  fashion,  in  dresses  of 
faded  but  expensive  material,  all  covered  with  pearls  and 
briUiants.  The  men  crowded  round  the  caviar"^  and  the 
vodka^  conversing  among  themselves  with  great  animation. 
In  the  dining-room  the  table  was  laid  for  eighty  persons ; 
the  servants  were  bustling  about,  arranging  the  bottles  and 
decanters  and  adjusting  the  table-cloths. 

At  last  the  house-steward  announced  that  dinner  was 
ready.  Kirila  Petrovitch  went  first  and  took  his  seat  at 
the  table;  the  ladies  followed  after  him,  and  took  theii 
places  with  an  air  of  great  gravity,  observing  a  sort  of 
precedence  as  they  did  so.  The  young  ladies  crowded 
together  like  a  timid  herd  of  kids,  and  took  their  places 
next  to  one  another.  Opposite  to  them  sat  the  gentlemen. 
At  the  end  of  the  table  sat  the  tutor  by  the  side  of  the  little 

The  servants  began  to  pass  the  plates  round  according  to 
the  rank  of  the  guests  ;  when  they  were  in  doubt  about  the 
latter  point,  they  allowed  themselves  to  be  guided  by 
instinct,  and  their  guesses  were  nearly  always  correct. 
The  noise  of  the  plates  and  spoons  mingled  with  the  loud 

^  At  the  end' of  the  service  in  the  Russian  Church,  all  the  members 
of  the  congregation  kiss  the  crucifix. 
^  The  roes  of  sturgeons  prepared  and  salted.  •  Brandy, 


talk  of  the  guests.  Kirila  Petrovitch  looked  gaily  round  his 
table  and  thoroughly  enjoyed  the  happiness  of  being  able 
to  provide  such  a  hospitable  entertainment.  At  that 
moment  a  calbche,  drawn  by  six  horses,  drove  into  the 

"  Who  is  that  ?  "  asked  the  host. 

"  Anton  Pafnoutitch,"  replied  several  voices. 

The  doors  opened,  and  Anton  Pafnoutitch  Spitsin,  a 
stout  man  of  about  fifty  years  of  age,  with  a  round  pock- 
marked face,  adorned  with  a  treble  chin,  rolled  into  the 
dining-room,  bowing,  smiling,  and  preparing  to  make  his 

"  A  cover  here  ! "  cried  Kirila  Petrovitch.  "  Pray  sit 
down,  Anton  Pafnoutitch,  and  tell  us  what  this  means : 
you  were  not  at  my  mass,  and  you  are  late  for  dinner. 
This  is  not  like  you.  You  are  devout,  and  you  love  good 

"  Pardon  me,"  replied  Anton  Pafnoutitch,  fastening  his 
serviette  in  the  button-hole  of  his  coat :  "pardon  me,  little 
father  Kirila  Petrovitch,  I  started  early  on  my  journey,  but 
I  had  not  gone  ten  versts,  when  suddenly  the  tire  of  the 
front  wheel  snapped  in  two.  What  was  to  be  done? 
Fortunately  it  was  not  far  from  the  village.  But  by  the 
time  we  had  arrived  there,  and  had  found  a  blacksmith, 
and  had  got  everything  put  to  rights,  three  hours  had 
elapsed.  It  could  not  be  helped.  To  take  the  shortest 
route  through  the  wood  of  Kistenevka,  I  did  not  dare, 
so  we  came  the  longest  way  round." 

"Ah,  ah!"  interrupted  Kirila  Petrovitch,  "it  is  evident 
that  you  do  not  belong  to  the  brave  ten.  What  are  you 
afraid  of?" 

"How,  what  am  I  afraid  of,  little  father  Kirila  Petro- 
vitch ?  And  Doubrovsky  ?  I  might  have  fallen  into  his 
clutches.     He  is  a  young  man  who  never  misses  his  aim — 


he  lets  nobody  off ;  and  I  am  afraid  he  would  have  flayed 
we  twice  over,  had  he  got  hold  of  me." 

**  Why,  brother,  such  a  distinction  ?  " 

"Why,  father  Kirila  Petrovitch?  Have  you  forgotten 
the  lawsuit  of  the  late  Andrei  Gavrilovitch  ?  Was  it  not  I 
who,  to  please  you,  that  is  to  say,  according  to  conscience 
and  justice,  showed  that  Doubrovsky  held  possession  of 
Kistenevka  without  having  any  right  to  it,  and  solely 
through  your  condescension ;  and  did  not  the  deceased — 
God  rest  his  soul ! — vow  that  he  would  settle  with  me  in  his  owi^ 
way,  and  might  not  the  son  keep  his  father's  word  ?  Hither- 
to the  Lord  has  been  merciful  to  me.  Up  to  the  present  tliey 
have  only  plundered  one  of  my  barns,  but  one  of  these  days 
they  may  find  their  way  to  the  manor-house." 

"  Where  they  would  find  a  rich  booty,"  observed  Kirila 
Petrovitch  :  "  I  have  no  doubt  that  the  little  red  cash-box 
is  as  full  as  it  can  be." 

"  Not  so,  father  Kirila  Petrovitch  ;  there  was  a  time  when 
it  was  full,  but  now  it  is  perfectly  empty." 

"  Don't  tell  lies,  Anton  Pafiioutitch.  We  know  you. 
Where  do  you  spend  money?  At  home  you  live  like 
^  pig>  yo^  never  receive  anybody,  and  you  fleece  your 
peasants.  You  do  nothing  with  your  money  but  hoard  it  up." 

"  You  are  only  joking,  father  Kirila  Petrovitch,"  mur- 
mured Anton  Pafnoutitch,  smiling;  **but  I  swear  to  you 
that  we  are  ruined,"  and  Anton  Pafnoutitch  swallowed 
his  host's  joke  with  a  greasy  piece  of  fish  pasty. 

Kirila  Petrovitch  left  him  and  turned  to  the  new  sheriff", 
who  was  his  guest  for  the  first  time  and  who  was  sitting  at 
the  other  end  of  the  table,  near  the  tutor. 

"Well,  Mr.  Sheriff,  give  us  a  proof  of  your  cleverness: 
catch  Doubrovsky  for  us." 

The  sheriff  looked  disconcerted,  bowed,  smiled,  stam- 
mered, and  said  at  last : 

204  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

"  We  will  try,  Your  Excellency." 

"  H'm  !  we  will  try  ! '  You  have  been  trying  for  a  long 
time  to  rid  our  country  of  brigands.  Nobody  knows  how  to 
set  about  the  business.  And,  after  all,  why  try  to  catch 
him  ?  Doubrovsky's  robberies  are  a  blessing  to  the  sheriffs : 
what  with  investigations,  travelling  expenses,  and  the  money 
they  put  into  their  pockets.  He  will  never  be  caught 
Why  should  such  a  benefactor  be  put  down?  Isn't  that 
true,  Mr.  Sheriff?" 

"  Perfectly  true,  Your  Excellency,"  replied  the  completely 
confused  sheriff. 

The  guests  roared  with  laughter. 

"  I  like  the  fellow  for  his  frankness,"  said  Kirila  Petro- 
vitch  :  "  but  it  is  a  pity  that  our  late  sheriff  is  no  longer  with 
us.  If  he  had  not  been  burnt,  the  neighbourhood  would  have 
been  quieter.  And  what  news  of  Doubrovsky  ?  Where  was 
he  last  seen?" 

"  At  my  house,  Kirila  Petrovitch,"  said  a  female  voice : 
"last  Tuesday  he  dined  with  me." 

All  eyes  were  turned  towards  Anna  Savishna  Globova, 
a  very  simple  widow,  beloved  by  everybody  for  her  kind  and 
cheerful  disposition.  Everyone  prepared  to  listen  to  her 
story  with  the  deepest  interest. 

"  You  must  know  that  three  weeks  ago  I  sent  my  steward 
to  the  post  with  a  letter  for  my  Vaniusha.^  I  do  not  spoil 
my  son,  and  moreover  I  haven't  the  means  of  spoiling  him, 
even  if  I  wished  to  do  so.  However,  you  know  very  well 
that  an  officer  of  the  Guards  must  live  in  a  suitable  style, 
and  I  share  my  income  with  Vaniusha  as  well  as  I  can. 
Well,  I  sent  two  thousand  roubles  to  him  ;  and  although  the 
thought  of  Doubrovsky  came  more  than  once  into  my  mind, 
I  thought  to  myself:  the  town  is  not  far  off — only  seven 
versts  altogether,  perhaps  God  will  order  all  things  for  the 
^  Diminutive  of  Ivan. 


best.  But  what  happens?  In  the  evening  my  steward 
returns,  pale,  tattered,  and  on  foot.  *  What  is  the  matter  ? 
What  has  happened  to  you  ? '  I  exclaimed.  *  Little  mother 
Anna  Savishna,'  he  replied,  '  the  brigands  have  robbed  and 
almost  killed  me.  Doubrovsky  himself  was  there,  and  he 
wanted  to  hang  me,  but  he  afterwards  had  pity  upon  me  and 
let  me  go.  But  he  plundered  me  of  everything — money, 
horse,  and  cart.'  A  faintness  came  over  me.  Heavenly 
Lord !  What  will  become  of  my  Vaniusha  ?  There  was 
nothing  to  be  done.  I  wrote  a  fresh  letter,  telHng  him  all 
that  had  happened,  and  sent  him  my  blessing  without  a  • 
farthing  of  money.  One  week  passed,  and  then  another. 
Suddenly,  one  day,  a  calbche  drove  into  my  courtyard. 
Some  general  asked  to  see  me  :  I  gave  orders  for  him  to  be 
shown  in.  He  entered  the  room,  and  I  saw  before  me 
a  man  of  about  thirty-five  years  of  age,  dark,  with  black 
hair,  moustache  and  beard — the  exact  portrait  of  Koulneff. 
He  introduced  himself  to  me  as  a  friend  and  comrade  of 
my  late  husband,  Ivan  Andreivitch.  He  happened  to  be 
passing  by,  and  he  could  not  resist  paying  a  visit  to  his  old 
friend's  widow,  knowing  that  I  lived  there.  I  invited  him 
to  dine,  and  I  set  before  him  what  God  had  sent  me.  We 
spoke  of  this  and  that,  and  at  last  we  began  to  talk  about 
Doubrovsky.  I  told  him  of  my  trouble.  My  general 
frowned.  '  That  is  strange,'  said  he :  *  I  have  heard  that 
Doubrovsky  does  not  attack  everybody,  but  only  people  who 
are  well  known  to  be  rich,  and  that  even  then  he  leaves 
them  a  part  of  their  possessions  and  does  not  plunder 
them  of  everything.  As  for  murdering  people,  nobody  has 
yet  accused  him  of  that.  Is  there  not  some  roguery  here  ? 
Oblige  me  by  sending  for  your  steward.' 

"The  steward  was  sent  for,  and  quickly  made  his  appear-  ^ 
ance.     But  as  soon  as  he  caught  sight  of  the  general  he 
stood  as  if  petrified. 


2o6  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

"'Tell  me,  brother,  in  what  manner  did  Doubrovsky 
plunder  you,  and  how  was  it  that  he  wanted  to  hang  you?' 
My  steward  began  to  tremble  and  fell  at  the  general's  feet. 

" '  Little  father,  I  am  guilty.  The  evil  one  led  me  astray. 
I  have  lied.' 

" '  If  that  is  so,'  replied  the  general,  *  have  the  goodness 
to  relate  to  your  mistress  how  it  all  happened,  and  I  will 

"  My  steward  could  not  recover  himself. 

"  *  Well,  then,'  continued  the  general,  *  tell  us  where  you 
met  Doubrovsky.' 

"  *  At  the  two  pine  trees,  little  father,  at  the  two  pine 

**  *  What  did  he  say  to  you  ?  '^ 

***He  asked  me  who  I  was,  where  I  was  going,  and 

"*WeU,  and  after  that?' 

"  *  After  that  he  demanded  the  letter  and  the  money  from 
me,  and  I  gave  them  to  him.'  v       - 

"'And  he?' 

"  *  Well,  and  he  .  .  .  little  father,  pardon  me  ! ' 

"'Well,  what  did  he  do?' 

" '  He  returned  me  the  money  and  the  letter,  and  sai( 
*  Go,  in  the  name  of  God,  and  put  this  in  the  post.' 


"  '  Little  father,  pardon  me  !  * 

"'I  will  settle  with  you,  my  pigeon,'  said  the  genera 
sternly.  '  And  you,  madam,  order  this  scoundrel's  trunk  to 
be  searched,  and  then  give  him  into  my  hands ;  I  will  teach 
him  a  lesson.' 

"I  guessed  who  his  Excellency  was,  but  I  did  not  make 
any  observation.  The  coachmen  tied  the  steward  to  the 
box  of  the  caliche;  the  money  was  found;  the  general 
remained    to    dine   with   me,   and   departed    immediately 


afterwards,  taking  with  him  my  steward.  The  steward  was 
found  the  next  day  in  the  wood,  tied  to  an  oak,  and  as 
ragged  as  a  lime  tree." 

Everybody  listened  in  silence  to  Anna  Savishna's  story, 
especially  the  young  ladies.  Many  of  them  secretly  wished 
well  to  Doubrovsky,  seeing  in  him  a  romantic  hero,  particu- 
larly Maria  Kirilovna,  an  impulsive,  sentimental  girl,  imbued 
with  the  mysterious  horrors  of  Mrs.  Anne  Radcliffe.^ 

"And  do  you  think,  Anna  Savishna,  that  it  was  Dou- 
brovsky himself  who  visited  you  ?  "  asked  Kirila  Petrovitch. 
"You  are  very  much  mistaken.  I  do  not  know  who  your 
guest  may  have  been,  but  I  feel  quite  sure  that  it  was  not 

*'How,  little  father,  not  Doubrovsky?  But  who  is  it 
then,  if  not  he,  who  stops  travellers  on  the  high  road  in 
order  to  search  them  ?  " 

-  "I  don't  know.;  but  I  feel  confident  that  it  is  not  Dou- 
brovsky. I  remember  him  as  a  child;  I  do  not  know 
whether  his  hair  has  turned  black,  but  at  that  time  he  was 
a  curly  flaxen-haired  boy.  But  I  do  know  for  a  positive 
fact,  that  Doubrovsky  is  five  years  older  than  my  Masha, 
and  that  consequently  he  is  not  thirty -five,  but  about 

"Exactly  so,  Your  Excellency,"  observed  the  sheriff:  "I 
have  in  my  pocket  the  description  of  Vladimir  Doubrovsky. 
In  that  it  is  distinctly  stated  that  he  is  twenty-three  years  of 

"Ah!"  said  Kirita  Petrovitch.  "By  the  way,  read  it, 
and  we  will  listen  :  it  will  not  be  a  had  thing  for  us  to  know 
his  description.  Perhaps  he  may  fall  into  our  clutches,  and 
if  so,  he  will  not  escape  in  a  hurry." 

^  A  now  almost  forgotten  romance  writer,  whose  '•  Romance  of  the 
Forest,"  **  Mysteries  of  Udolpho,"  and  "Italian,"  were  very  popular 
a  century  ago. 


The  sheriff  drew  from  his  pocket  a  rather  dirty  sheet  of 
paper,  unfolded  ir  with  an  air  of  great  importance,  and 
began  to  read  in  a  monotonous  tone  : 

'*  Description  of  Doubrovsky,  based  upon  the  depositions 
of  his  former  servants : 

"  Twenty-three  years  of  age,  medium  height,  clear  com- 
plexion, shaves  his  beard,  has  brown  eyes,  flaxen  hair, 
straight  nose.  Does  not  seem  to  have  any  particular 

''And  is  that  all?"  said  Kirila  Petrovitch. 

"  That  is  all,"  replied  the  sheriff,  folding  up  the  paper. 

"  I  congratulate  you,  Mr.  Sheriff.  A  very  valuable  docu- 
ment !  With  that  description  it  will  not  be  difficult  for  you 
to  find  Doubrovsky  !  Who  is  not  of  medium  height  ?  Who 
has  not  flaxen  hair,  a  straight  nose  and  brown  eyes  ?  I  would 
wager  that  you  would  talk  for  three  hours  at  a  stretch  to 
Doubrovsky  himself,  and  you  would  never  guess  in  whose 
company  you  were.  There  is  no  denying  that  these  officials 
have  wise  heads." 

The  sheriff,  meekly  replacing  the  paper  in  his  pocket, 
silently  busied  himself  with  his  goose  and  cabbage.  Mean- 
while the  servants  had  already  gone  the  round  of  the  guests 
several  times,  filling  up  each  one's  glass.  Several  bottles  of 
Caucasus  wine  had  been  opened  with  a  great  deal  of  noise, 
and  had  been  thankfully  accepted  under  the  name  of 
champagne.  Faces  began  to  glow,  and  the  conversation 
grew  louder,  more  incoherent  and  more  lively. 

"  No,"  continued  Kirila  Petrovitch,  "  we  shall  never  see 
another  sheriff  like  the  late  Taras  Alexeievitch  !  He  was 
not  the  man  to  be  thrown  off  the  scent  very  easily.  I  am 
very  sorry  that  the  fellow  was  burnt,  for  otherwise  not  one 
of  the  band  would  have  got  away  from  him.  He  would 
have  laid  his  hands  upon  the  whole  lot  of  them,  and  not 
even   Doubrovsky   himself   would    have    escaped.     Taras 


Alexeievitch  would  perhaps  have  taken  money  from  him, 
but  he  would  not  have  let  him  go.  Such  was  the  way  of 
the  deceased.  Evidently  there  is  nothing  else  to  be  done 
but  for  me  to  take  the  matter  in  hand  and  go  after  the 
brigands  with  my  people.  I  will  begin  by  sending  out 
twenty  men  to  scour  the  wood.  My  people  are  not 
cowards.  Each  of  them  would  attack  a  bear  single-handed, 
and  they  certainly  would  not  fall  back  before  a  brigand." 

"How  is  your  bear,  father  Kirila  Petrovitch?"  asked 
Anton  Pafnoutitch,  being  reminded  by  these  words  of  his 
shaggy  acquaintance  and  of  certain  pleasantries  of  which  he 
had  once  been  the  victim. 

**Misha^  wishes  you  a  long  life,"  replied  Karila  Petro- 
vitch: '*he  died  a  glorious  death  at  the  hands  of  the 
eneniy.  There  is  his  conqueror  ! "  Kirila  Petrovitch  pointed 
to  the  French  tutor.  "  He  has  avenged  your — if  you  will 
allow  me  to'^ay  so — do  you  remember  ?  " 

**  How  should  I  not  remember  ?  "  said  Anton  Pafnoutitch, 
scratching  his  head :  **  I  remember  it  only  too  well.  So 
Misha  is  dead.  I  am  very  sorry  for  Misha — upon  my  word, 
I  am  very  sorry  !  How  amusing  he  was  !  How  intelligent ! 
You  will  not  find  another  bear  like  him.  And  why  did 
monsieur  kill  him  ?  " 

Kirila  Petrovitch  began,  with  great  satisfaction,  to  relate 
the  exploit  of  his  Frenchman,  for  he  possessed  the  happy 
faculty  of  boasting  of  everything  that  was  about  him.  The 
guests  listened  with  great  attention  to  the  story  of  Misha's 
death,  and  gazed  in  astonishment  at  Desforges,  who,  not 
suspecting  that  his  bravery  was  the  subject  of  conversation, 
sat  tranquilly  in  his  place,  giving  advice  to  his  restive 

^  Diminutive  of  Michael — the  familiar  name  for  a  bear  in  Russia. 
^  A  Russian  figure  of  speech  which  signifies  that  the  person  spoken  of 
is  dead. 


The  dinner,  after  lasting  about  three  hours,  came  to  an 
end;  the  host  placed  his  serviette  upon  the  table,  and 
everybody  rose  and  repaired  to  the  parlour,  where  awaited 
them  coffee,  cards,  and  a  continuation  of  the  carouse  so 
excellently  begun  in  the  dining-room. 



ABOUT  seven  o'clock  in  the  evening,  some  of  the  guests 
wished  to  depart,  but  the  host,  merry  with  punch, 
ordered  the  gates  to  be  locked,  and  declared  that  nobody 
should  leave  the  house  until  the  next  morning.  Music  soon 
resounded,  the  doors  of  the  saloon  were  thrown  open  and 
the  ball  began.  The  host  and  his  familiar  acquaintances  sat 
in  a  corner,  draining  glass  after  glass,  and  admiring  the 
gaiety  of  the  young  people.  The  old  ladies  played  at  cards. 
The  gentlemen,  as  is  always  the  case,  except  where  a  brigade 
of  uhlans  is  stationed,  were  less  in  number  than  the  ladies, 
and  all  the  men,  suitable  for  partners,  were  soon  engaged 
for  the  dance.  The  tutor  particularly  distinguished  himself 
among  them;  all  the  ladies  waiited  to  have  him  as  a 
partner,  as  they  found  it  so  exceedingly  easy  to  waltz  with 
him.  He  danced  several  times  with  Maria  Kirilovna,  and 
the  ladies  observed  them  with  great  interest.  At  last,  about 
midnight,  the  tired  host  stopped  the  dancing,  ordered 
supper  to  be  served,  and  then  betook  himself  off  to  bed. 

The  retirement  of  Kirila  Petrovitch  gave  to  the  company 
more  freedom  and  animation.  The  gentlemen  ventured  to 
sit  near  the  ladies ;  the  girls  laughed  and  spoke  in  whispers 
to  their  neighbours  j  the  ladies  spoke  in  loud  voices  across 
the  table ;  the  gentlemen  drank,  disputed,  and  laughed 
boisterously.  In  a  word,  the  supper  was  exceedingly  merry, 
•and  left  behind  it  a  very  agreeable  impression. 

One  man  only  did  not  share  in  the  general  joy.     Anton 
Pafnoutitch  sat  gloomy  and  silent  in  his  place,  ate  absently, 

212         POUSHKIN*S  PROSE  TALES. 

and  seemed  extremely  uneasy.  The  conversation  about  the 
brigands  had  worked  upon  his  imagination.  We  shall  soon 
see  that  he  had  good  cause  to  fear  them. 

Anton  Pafnoutitch,  in  invoking  God  as  a  witness  that  the 
little  red  cash-box  was  empty,  had  not  lied  and  sinned.  The 
little  red  cash-box  was  really  empty.  The  bank  notes, 
which  had  at  one  time  been  in  it,  had  been  transferred  to  a 
leather  pouch,  which  he  carried  on  his  breast  under  his 
shirt.  This  precaution  alone  quieted  his  distrust  of  every- 
body and  his  constant  fear.  Being  compelled  to  spend  the 
night  in  a  strange  house,  he  was  afraid  that  he  might  be 
lodged  in  some  solitary  room,  where  thieves  could  easily 
break  in.  He  looked  round  in  search  of  a  trustworthy  com- 
panion, and  at  last  his  choice  fell  upon  Desforges.  His 
appearance, — indicative  of  strength, — but  especially  the 
bravery  shown  by  him  in  his  encounter  with  the  bear,  which 
poor  Anton  Pafnoutitch  could  never  think  of  without  a 
shudder,  decided  his  choice.  When  they  rose  from  the  table, 
Anton  Pafnoutitch  began  moving  round  the  young  French- 
man, clearing  his  throat  ancj  coughing,  and  at  last  he  turned 
to  him  and  addressed  him  : 

"  Hm  !  hm  !  Couldn't  I  spend  the  night  in  your  room, 
mossoo,  because  you  see " 

^^  Que  desire  monsieur  V  asked  Desforges,  with  a  poHte 

"  Ah  !  what  a  pity,  mossoo,  that  you  have  not  yet  learnt 
Russian.  Je  vais  moa  chez  vous  coucher.  Do  you  under- 

^^  Monsieur,  trh  vo/ontiers"  replied  Desforges,  '•^  veuillez 
donner  des  ordres  eti  consequence.^^ 

Anton  Pafnoutitch,  well  satisfied  with  his  knowledge  of 
the  French  language,  went  off  at  once  to  make  the  necessary 

The  guests  began  to  wish  each  other  good  night,  and  each 



retired  to  the  room  assigned  to  him,  while  Anton  Pafnoutitch 
accompanied  the  tutor  to  the  wing.  The  night  was 
dark.  Desforges  lighted  the  way  with  a  lantern.  Anton 
Pafnoutitch  followed  him  boldly  enough,  pressing  the  hidden 
treasure  occasionally  against  his  breast,  in  order  to  convince 
himself  that  his  money  was  still  there. 

On  arriving  at  the  wing,  the  tutor  lit  a  candle  and  both 
began  to  undress ;  in  the  meantime  Anton  Pafnoutitch  was 
walking  about  the  room,  examining  the  locks  and  windows, 
and  shaking  his  head  at  the  unassuring  inspection.  The 
doors  fastened  with  only  one  bolt,  and  the  windows  had  not 
yet  their  double  frames.^  He  tried  to  complain  to  Desforges, 
but  his  knowledge  of  the  French  language  was  too  limited 
to  enable  him  to  express  himself  with  sufficient  clearness. 
The  Frenchman  did  not  understand  him,  and  Anton 
Pafnoutitch  was  obliged  to  cease  his  complaints.  Their 
beds  stood  opposite  each  other;  they  both  lay  down,  and 
the  tutor  extinguished  the  light. 

''^ Pourquoi  vous  toucher;  pourquoi  vous  toucher 7"  cried 
Anton  Pafnoutitch,  conjugating  the  Russian  verb  to  extin- 
guish, after  the  French  manner.  "  I  cannot  dormir  in  the 

Desforges  did  not  understand  his  exclamations,  and 
wished  him  good  night. 

"Accursed  pagan!"  muttered  Spitsin,  wrapping  himself 
up  in  the  bedclothes :  *'  he  couldn't  do  without  extin- 
guishing the  light.  So  much  the  worse  for  him.  I  cannot 
sleep  without  a  light — Mossoo,  mossoo^'  he  continued  :  "yj? 
ve  avec  vous  parler" 

But  the  Frenchman  did  not  reply,  and  soon  began  to 

"  He   is    snoring,    the  French    brute, '*   though'J   Anton 

^  The  Russians  put  double  frames  to  their  windows  in  winter. 

214  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

Pafnoutitch,  "  while  I  can't  even  think  of  going  to  sleep. 
Thieves  might  walk  in  at  any  moment  through  the  open 
doors  or  climb  in  through  the  window,  and  the  firing  of  a 
cannon  would  not  wake  him,  the  beast ! " 

"  Mossoo  /  mossoo  ! — the  devil  take  you  ! " 

Anton  Pafnoutitch  became  silent.  Fatigue  and  the  effects 
of  wine  gradually  overcame  his  fear.  He  began  to  doze,  and 
soon  fell  into  a  deep  sleep.  A  strange  sensation  aroused 
him.  He  felt  in  his  sleep  that  someone  was  gently  pulling 
him  by  the  collar  of  his  shirt.  Anton  Pafnoutitch  opened  his 
eyes  and,  by  the  pale  light  of  an  autumn  morning,  he  saw 
Desforges  standing  before  him.  In  one  hand  the  French- 
man held  a  pocket  pistol,  and  with  the  other  he  was  unfasten- 
ing the  strings  of  the  precious  leather  pouch.  Anton 
Pafnoutitch  felt  faint. 

**  Qu!est  ce  que  dest,  Mossoo^  quUst  ce  que  ^est  ?  "  said  he,  in 
a  trembling  voice. 

"  Hush  !  Silence  ! "  replied  the  tutor  in  pure  Russian. 
"  Silence  1  or  you  are  lost.    I  am  Doubrovsky." 



WE  will  now  ask  the  permission  of  the  reader  to  explain 
the  last  incidents  of  our  story,  by  referring  to  the 
circumstances  that  preceded  them,  and  which  we  have  not 
yet  had  time  to  relate. 

At  the  station  of ,  at  the  house  of  the  postmaster,  of 

whom  we  have  already  spoken,  sat  a  traveller  in  a  corner, 
looking  very  modest  and  resigned,  and  having  the  appear- 
ance of  a  plebeian  or  a  foreigner,  that  is  to  say,  of  a  man 
having  no  voice  in  connection  with  the  post  route.  His 
britchka  ^  stood  in  the  courtyard,  waiting  for  the  wheels  to  be 
greased.  Within  it  lay  a  small  portmanteau,  evidence  of  a 
very  modest  fortune.  The  traveller  ordered  neither  tea  nor 
coffee,  but  sat  looking  out  of  the  window  and  whistling,  to 
the  great  annoyance  of  the  postmistress  sitting  behind  the 

"The  Lord  has  sent  us  a  whistler,"  said  she,  in  a  low 
voice.  "  How  he  does  whistle  !  I  wish  he  would  burst,  the 
accursed  pagan  ! " 

*'  What  does  it  matter  ?  "  said  her  husband.  "  Let  him 

"What  does  it  matter?"  retorted  his  angry  spouse; 
"  don't  you  know  the  saying  ?  " 

"  What  saying  ?  That  whistling  drives  money  away  ?  Oh, 
Pakhomovna,  whether  he  whistles  or  not,  we  shall  get 
precious  Httle  money  out  of  him." 

^  A  kind  of  open  four-wheeled  carriage,  with  a  top  and  shutters  to 
close  at  pleasure. 

2i6         POUSHKIN'S  PROSE  TALES. 

"  Then  let  him  go,  Sidoritch.  What  pleasure  have  you  in 
keeping  him  here  ?  Give  him  the  horses,  and  let  him  go  to 
the  devil." 

"  He  can  wait,  Pakhomovna.  I  have  only  three  troikas 
in  the  stable,  the  fourth  is  resting.  Besides,  travellers  of 
more  importance  may  arrive  at  any  moment,  and  I  don't 
wish  to  risk  my  neck  for  a  Frenchman.  .  .  .  Hallo  !  there 
you  are !  Don't  you  hear  the  sound  of  galloping  !  What  a 
rate  !     Can  it  be  a  general  ?  " 

A  caliche  stopped  in  front  of  the  steps.  The  servant 
jumped  down  from  the  box,  opened  the  door,  and  a  moment 
afterwards  a  young  man  in  a  military  cloak  and  white  cap 
entered  the  station.  Behind  him  followed  his  servant, 
carrying  a  small  box  which  he  placed  upon  the  window- 

"  Horses  ! "  said  the  officer,  in  an  imperious  voice. 

** Directly!"  replied  the  postmaster:  "your  road-pass, 
if  you  please." 

"  I  have  no  road-pass :  I  am  not  going  to  take  the  main 
road.  .  .  .  Besides,  don't  you  recognize  me  ? " 

The  postmaster  hastened  to  hurry  the  postilions.  The 
young  man  began  to  pace  up  and  down  the  room.  Then 
he  went  behind  the  partition,  and  inquired  of  the  post- 
mistress in  a  low  voice  : 

"  Who  is  that  traveller?  " 

"  God  knows  1 "  replied  the  postmistress :  "  some  French- 
man or  other.  He  has  been  five  hours  waiting  for  horses, 
and  has  done  nothing  but  whistle  the  whole  of  the  time. 
He  has  quite  wearied  me,  the  heathen  ! " 

The  young  man  spoke  to  the  traveller  in  French. 

**  Where  are  you  going  to  ?  "  he  asked. 

"To  the  neighbouring  town,"  replied  the  Frenchman: 
"  and  from  there  I  am  going  to  a  landed  proprietor  who  has 
engaged  me  as  tutor  without  ever  having  seen  me.     I  thought 


I  should  have  reached  the  place  to-day,  but  the  postmaster 
has  evidently  decided  otherwise.  In  this  country  it  is 
difficult  to  procure  horses,  monsieur  I'officier." 

"  And  to  which  of  the  landed  proprietors  about  here  have 
you  engaged  yourself?"  asked  the  officer. 

"  To  Troekouroff,"  replied  the  Frenchman. 

"To  Troekouroff?    Who  is  this  Troekourofif?" 

"  Ma  foi^  monsieur.  I  have  heard  very  little  good  of 
him.  They  say  that  he  is  a  proud  and  wilful  noble,  and  so 
harsh  towards  the  members  of  his  household,  that  nobody 
can  live  on  good  terms  with  him  :  that  all  tremble  at  his 
name,  and  that  with  his  tutors  he  stands  upon  no  ceremony 

"And  you  have  decided  to  engage  yourself  to  such  a 
monster  ?  " 

"  What  is  to  be  done,  monsieur  I'officier?  He  proposes  to 
give  me  good  wages :  three  thousand  roubles  a  year  and 
everything  found.  Perhaps  I  may  be  more  fortunate  than 
the  others.  I  have  an  aged  mother:  one  half  of  my  salary 
I  will  send  to  her  for  her  support,  and  out  of  the  rest  of  my 
money  I  shall  be  able  in  five  years  to  save  a  small  capital 
sufficient  to  make  me  independent  for  the  rest  of  my  life. 
Then,  bon  soir,  I  return  to  Paris  and  set  up  in  business." 

"  Does  anybody  at  Troekouroff 's  know  you  ?  "  asked  the 

"Nobody,"  replied  the  tutor.  "He  engaged  me  at 
Moscow,  through  one  of  his  friends,  whose  cook  is  a 
countryman  of  mine,  and  who  recommended  me.  I  must 
tell  you  that  I  did  not  intend  to  be  a  tutor,  but  a  con- 
fectioner ;  but  I  was  told  that  in  your  country  the  profession 
of  tutor  is  more  lucrative.'"' 

The  officer  reflected. 

"  Listen  to  me,"  he  said  to  the  Frenchman  :  "  What  would 
you  say  if,  instead  of  this  engagement,  you  were  offered  ten 


thousand  roubles,  ready  money,  on  condition  that  you 
returned  immediately  to  Paris?" 

The  Frenchman  looked  at  the  officer  in  astonishment, 
smiled,  and  shook  his  head. 

"The  horses  are  ready,"  said  the  postmaster,  entering 
the  room  at  that  moment. 

The  servant  confirmed  this  statement. 

"  Presently,"  replied  the  officer :  "  leave  the  room  for  a 
moment."  The  postmaster  and  the  servant  withdrew  "  I 
am  not  joking,"  he  continued  in  French.  "  I  can  give  you 
ten  thousand  roubles ;  I  only  want  your  absence  and  your 

So  saying,  he  opened  his  small  box  and  took  out  of  it 
several  bank  notes.  The  Frenchman  opened  his  eyes.  He 
did  not  know  what  to  think. 

"  My  absence  ...  my  papers  ! "  he  repeated  in  astonish- 
ment. *'  Here  are  my  papers  .  .  .  but  you  are  surely  joking. 
What  do  you  want  my  papers  for  ?  " 

"  That  does  not  concern  you.  I  ask  you,  do  you  consent 
or  not?" 

The  Frenchman,  still  unable  to  believe  his  own  ears, 
handed  his  papers  to  the  young  officer,  who  rapidly  examined 

"Your  passport  .  .  .  very  well;  your  letter  of  recom- 
mendation ...  let  us  see  ;  the  certifigarte  of  your  birth  .  .  . 
capital !   Well,  here  is  your  money ;  return  home.   Farewell." 

The  Frenchman  stood  as  if  glued  to  the  spot.  The  officer 
came  back. 

"  I  had  almost  forgotten  the  most  important  thing  of  all. 
Give  me  your  word  of  honour  that  all  this  will  remain  a 
secret  between  us.  .  .  .  Your  word  of  honour." 

"  My  word  of  honour,"  replied  the  Frenchman.  "  But 
my  papers  ?    What  shall  I  do  without  them  ?" 

*'  In  the  first  town  you  come  to,  announce  that  you  have 


been  robbed  by  Doubrovsky.  They  will  believe  you,  and 
give  you  fresh  papers.  Farewell :  God  grant  you  a  safe  and 
speedy  return  to  Paris,  and  may  you  find  your  mother  in 
good  health." 

Doubrovsky  left  the  room,  mounted  the  caliche,  and 
galloped  off. 

The  postmaster  stood  looking  out  of  the  window,  and 
when  the  caliche  had  driven  off,  he  turned  to  his  wife, 
exclaiming : 

"Pakhomovna,  do  you  know  who  that  was?  That  was 
Doubrovsky  ! " 

The  postmistress  rushed  towards  the  window,  but  it  was 
too  late.  Doubrovsky  was  already  a  long  way  off.  Then 
she  began  to  scold  her  husband. 

**  You  have  no  fear  of  God.  Why  did  you  not  tell  me 
sooner,  I  should  at  least  have  had  a  glimpse  of  Doubrovsky. 
But  now  I  shall  have  to  wait  long  enough  before  I  get  a 
chance  of  seeing  him  again.  Shameless  creature  that  you 

The  Frenchman  stood  as  if  petrified.  The  agreement 
with  the  officer,  the  money — everything  seemed  like  a 
dream  to  him.  But  the  bundle  of  bank  notes  was  there  in 
his  pocket,  eloquently  confirming  the  reality  of  the  wonder- 
ful adventure. 

He  resolved  to  hire  horses  to  take  him  to  the  next  town. 
The  postilion  drove  him  very  slowly,  and  he  reached  the 
town  at  nightfall. 

On  approaching  the  barrier,  where,  in  place  of  a  sentinel, 
stood  a  dilapidated  sentry-box,  the  Frenchman  told  the 
postilion  to  stop,  got  out  of  the  britchka  and  proceeded  on 
foot,  explaining  by  signs  to  the  driver  that  he  might  keep  the 
vehicle  and  the  portmanteau  and  buy  brandy  with  them. 
The  driver  was  as  much  astonished  at  his  generosity  as  the 
Frenchman   himself  had  been    by  Doubrovsky's  proposal. 

220         POUSHKIN^S  PROSE  TALES. 

But  concluding  that  the  "  German  "  ^  had  taken  leave  of  his 
senses,  the  driver  thanked  him  with  a  very  profound  bow,  and 
not  caring  about  entering  the  town,  he  made  his  way  to  a 
house  of  entertainment  that  was  well  known  to  him,  and  the 
proprietor  of  which  was  a  friend  of  his.  There  he  passed 
the  whole  night,  and  the  next  morning  he  started  back  on 
his  return  journey  with  the  troika^  without  the  britchka  and 
without  the  portmanteau,  but  with  a  swollen  face  and  red 

Doubrovsky,  having  possession  of  the  Frenchman's  papers, 
boldly  appeared,  as  we  have  already  seen,  at  the  house  of 
Troekouroff,  and  there  estabHshed  liimself.  Whatever  were 
his  secret  intentions — we  shall  know  them  later  on — th^Ye 
was  nothing  in  his  behaviour  to  excite  suspicion.  It  is 
true  that  he  did  not  occupy  himself  very  much  with 
the  education  of  little  Sasha,  to  whom  he  allowed  full 
liberty,  nor  was  he  very  exacting  in  the  matter  of  his  lessons, 
which  were  only  given  for  form's  sake,  but  he  paid  great 
attention  to  the  musical  studies  of  his  fair  pupil,  and 
frequently  sat  for  hours  beside  her  at  the  piano. 

Everybody  liked  the  young  tutor  :  Kirila  Petrovitch  for 
his  boldness  and  dexterity  in  the  hunting-field ;  Maria 
Kirilovna  for  his  unbounded  zeal  and^lavish  attentiveness ; 
Sasha  for  his  tolerance,  and  the  members  of  the  household 
for  his  kindness  and  generosity,  apparently  incompatible 
with  his  means.  He  himself  seemed  to  be  attached  to  the 
whole  family,  and  already  regarded  himself  as  a  member 
of  it. 

About  a  monfh  had  elapsed  from  the  time  of  his  entering 
upon  the  calling  of  tutor  to  the  date  of  the  memorable  fete, 
and  nobody  suspected  that  the  modest  young  Frenchman 

'  A  general  name  for  all  foreigners  in  Russia. 



was  in  reality  the  terrible  brigand  whose  name  was  a  source 
of  terror  to  all  the  landed  proprietors  of  the  neighbourhood. 
During  all  this  time,  Doubrovsky  had  never  quitted  Pokrov- 
skoe,  but  the  reports  of  his  depredations  did  not  cease  for 
all  that,  thanks  to  the  inventive  imagination  of  the  country 
people.  It  is  possible,  too,  that  his  band  may  have  con- 
tinued their  exploits  during  the  absence  of  the  chief. 

Passing  the  night  in  the  same  room  with  a  man  whom  he 
could  only  regard  as  a  personal  enemy,  and  one  of  the  prin- 
cipal authors  of  his  misfortune,  Doubrovsky  had  not  been 
able  to  resist  temptation.  He  knew  of  the  existence  of  the 
pouch,  and  had  resolved  to  take  possession  of  it. 

We  have  seen  how  he  frightened  poor  Anton  Pafnoutitch 
by  his  unexpected  transformation  from  a  tutor  into  a 




AT  nine  o'clock  in  the  morning,  the  guests  who  had! 
passed  the  night  at  Pokrovskoe  repaired  one  after  the 
other  to  the  sitting-room,  where  the  tea-urn  was  already  boil- 
ing, and  before  which  sat  Maria  Kirilovna  in  a  morning 
gown,  and  Kirila  Petrovitch  in  a  frieze  coat  and  slippers, 
drinking  his  tea  out  of  a  large  cup  like  a  wash-hand  basin. 

The  last  to  appear  was  Anton  Pafnoutitch;  he  was  so 
pale,  and  seemed  so  troubled,  that  everybody  was  struck 
by  his  appearance,  and  Kirila  Petrovitch  inquired  after  his 
health.  Spitsin  replied  in  an  evasive  manner,  glaring  with 
horror  at  the  tutor,  who  sat  there  as  if  nothing  had  happened. 
A  few  minutes  afterwards  a  servant  entered  and  announced  to 
Spitsin  that  his  carriage  was  ready.  Anton  Pafnoutitch 
hastened  to  take  his  leave  of  the  company,  and  then  hurried 
out  of  the  room  and  started  off  immediately.  The  guests 
and  the  host  could  not  understand  what  had  happened  to 
him,  and  Kirila  Petrovitch  came  to  the  conclusion  that  he 
was  suffering  from  an  attack  of  indigestion. 

After  tea  and  the  farewell  breakfast,  the  other  guests 
began  to  take  their  leave,  and  soon  Pokrovskoe  became 
empty,  and  everything  went  on  in  the  usual  manner. 

Several  days  passed,  and  nothing  remarkable  had  hap- 
pened. The  life  of  the  inhabitants  of  Pokrovskoe  became 
very  monotonous.  Kirila  Petrovitch  went  out  hunting 
every  day;  while  Maria  Kirilovna  devoted  her  time  to 
reading,  walking,  and  especially  to  musical  exercises.     She 


was  beginning  to  understand  her  own  heart,  and  acknow- 
ledged to  herself  with  involuntary  vexation  that  she  was  not 
indifferent  to  the  good  qualities  of  the  young  Frenchman. 
He,  on  his  side,  never  overstepped  the  limits  of  respect  and 
strict  decorum,  and  thereby  quieted  her  pride  and  her 
timid  suspicions.  With  more  and  more  confidence  she 
gave  herself  up  to  the  alluring  habit  of  seeing  him.  She 
felt  dull  without  Desforges,  and  in  his  presence  she  was  con- 
stantly occupied  with  him,  wishing  to  know  his  opinion  of 
everything,  and  always  agreeing  with  him.  She  was  not  yet 
in  love  with  him  perhaps;  but  at  the  first  accidental 
obstacle  or  unexpected  reverse  of  destiny,  the  flame  of 
passion  would  burst  forth  within  her  heart. 

One  day,  on  entering  the  parlour,  where  the  tutor  awaited 
her,  Maria  Kirilovna  observed  with  astonishment  that  he 
looked  pale  and  troubled.  She  opened  the  piano  and  sang 
a  few  notes ;  but  Doubrovsky,  under  the  pretext  of  a  head- 
aches, apologized,  interrupted  the  lesson,  closed  the  music, 
and  slipped  a  note  into  her  hand.  Maria  Kirilovna,  with- 
out pausing  to  reflect,  took  it,  and  repented  almost  at  the 
same  moment  for  having  done  so.  But  Doubrovsky  was  no 
longer  in  the  room.  Maria  Kirilovna  went  to  her  room,  un- 
folded the  note,  and  read  as  follows  : 

**  Be  in  the  arbour  near  the  brook  this  evening,  at  seven 
o^clock :  it  is  necessary  that  I  should  speak  to  you." 

Her  curiosity  was  strongly  excited.  She  had  long  ex- 
pected a  declaration,  desiring  it  and  dreading  it  at  one  and 
the  same  time.  It  would  have  been  agreeable  to  her  to 
hear  the  confirmation  of  what  she  divined ;  but  she  felt  that 
it  would  have  been  unbecoming  to  hear  such  a  declaration 
from  a  man  who,  on  account  of  his  position,  ought  never  to 
aspire  to  win  her  hand.  She  resolved  to  go  to  the  meeting- 
place,  but  she  hesitated  about  one  thing :  in  what  manner 
she  ought  to  receive  the  tutor's  declaration — with  aristocratic 

224  POUSHKIN'S  prose  TALES. 

indignation,  with  friendly  admonition,  with  good-humoured 
banter,  or  with  silent  sympathy.  In  the  meantime  she  kept 
constantly  looking  at  the  clock.  It  grew  dark :  candles 
were  brought  in.  Kirila  Petrovitch  sat  down  to  play  at 
"  Boston  "  ^  with  some  of  his  neighbours  who  had  come  to 
pay  him  a  visit.  The  clock  struck  a  quarter  to  seven, 
and  Maria  Kirilovna  walked  quietly  out  on  to  the  steps, 
looked  round  on  every  side,  and  then  hastened  into  the 

The  night  was  dark,  the  sky  was  covered  with  clouds,  and 
it  was  impossible  to  see  anything  at  a  distance  of  two  paces  ; 
but  Maria  Kirilovna  went  forward  in  the  darkness  along 
paths  that  were  quite  familiar  to  her,  and  in  a  few  minutes 
she  reached  the  arbour.  There  she  paused  in  order  to 
draw  breath  and  to  present  herself  before  Desforges  with  an 
air  of  calm  indifference.  But  Desforges  already  stood 
before  her. 

"  I  thank  you,"  he  said  in  a  low,  sad  voice,  "  for  having 
granted  my  request.  I  should  have  been  in  despair  if  you 
had  not  complied  with  it." 

Maria  Kirilovna  answered  him  in  the  words  she  had 
prepared  beforehand. 

"  I  hope  you  will  not  cause  me  tp  repent  of  my  con- 

He  was  silent,  and  seemed  to  be  collecting  himself. 

"Circumstances  demand — I  am  obliged  to  leave  you,*' 
he  said  at  last.  "It  may  be  that  you  will  soon  hear — 
but  before  going  away,  I  must  have  an  explanation  with 

Maria  Kirilovna  made  no  reply.  In  these  words  she  saw 
the  preface  to  the  expected  declaration. 

"  I  am  not  what  you  suppose,"  continued  he,  lowering  his 

*  A  card  game  that  was  very  popular  on  the  Continent  at  the 
beginning  of  the  present  century. 


head:  **I  am  not  the  Frenchman  Desforges — I  am  Doa- 

Maria  Kirilovna  uttered  a  cry. 

"  Do  not  be  alarmed,  for  God's  sake  !  You  need  not  be 
afraid  of  my  name.  Yes,  I  am  that  unhappy  person,  whom 
your  father,  after  depriving  him  of  his  last  crust  of  bread, 
drove  out  of  his  paternal  home  and  sent  on  to  the  highway 
to  rob.  But  you  need  not  be  afraid,  either  on  your  own 
account  or  on  his.  All  is  over.  ...  I  have  forgiven  him ; 
you  have  saved  him.  My  first  crime  of  blood  was  to  have 
been  accomplished  upon  him.  I  prowled  round  his  house, 
determining  where  the  fire  should  burst  out,  where  I  should 
enter  his  bedroom,  and  how  I  should  cut  him  off  from  all 
means  of  escape ;  at  that  moment  you  passed  by  me  like  a 
^  heavenly  vision,  and  my  heart  was  subdued.  I  understood 
that  the  house,  in  which  you  dwelt,  was  sacred ;  that  not  a 
single  person,  connected  with  you  by  the  ties  of  blood, 
could  He  beneath  my  curse.  I  looked  upon  vengeance  as 
madness,  and  dismissed  the  thought  of  it  from  my  mind. 
Whole  days  I  wandered  around  the  gardens  of  Pokrovskoe, 
in  the  hope  of  seeing  your  white  robe  in  the  distance.  In 
your  incautious  walks  I  followed  you,  stealing  from  bush  to 
bush,  happy  in  the  thought  that  for  you  there  was  no  danger, 
where  I  was  secretly  present.  At  last  an  opportunity  pre- 
sented itself.  ...  I  established  myself  in  your  house. 
Those  three  weeks  were  for  me  days  of  happiness;  the 
recollection  of  them  will  be  the  joy  of  my  sad  life.  .  . 
To-day  I  received  news  which  renders  it  impossible  for  me 
to  remain  here  any  longer.  I  part  from  you  to-day — at  this 
very  moment.  .  .  .  But  before  doing  so,  I  felt  that  it  was 
necessary  that  I  should  reveal  myself  to  you,  so  that  you 
might  not  curse  me  nor  despise  me.  Think  sometimes  ot 
Doubrovsky.  Know  that  he  was  born  for  another  fate,  that 
his  soul  was  capable  of  loving  you,  that  never " 

226  POUSHKIN'S   prose  TALES. 

Just  then  a  loud  whistle  resounded,  and  Doubrovsky 
became  silent.  He  seized  her  hand  and  pressed  it  to  his 
burning  lips.     The  whistle  was  repeated. 

**  Farewell,"  said  Doubrovsky  :  "  they  are  calling  me.  •  A 
moment's  delay  may  destroy  me." 

He  moved  away.  .  .  .  Maria  Kirilovna  stood  motionless. 
Doubrovsky  returned  and  once  more  took  her  by  the  hand. 

"If  misfortune  should  ever  overtake  you,  and  you  are 
unable  to  obtain  help  or  protection  from  anybody,  will  you 
promise  to  apply  to  me,  to  demand  from  me  everything 
that  may  be  necessary  for  your  happiness  ?  Will  you  pro- 
mise not  to  reject  my  devotion  ?  " 

Maria  Kirilovna  wept  silently.  The  whistle  resounded 
for  the  third  time. 

"  You  will  destroy  me  ! "  cried  Doubrovsky  :  "  but  I  will 
not  leave  you  until  you  give  me  a  reply.  Do  you  promise 
me  or  not  ?  " 

"  I  promise  ! "  murmured  the  poor  girl. 

Greatly  agitated  by  her  interview  with  Doubrovsky,  Maria 
Kirilovna  returned  from  the  garden.  As  she  approached 
the  house,  she  perceived  a  great  crowd  of  people  in  the 
courtyard ;  a  troika  was  standing  in  front  of  the  steps,  the 
servants  were  running  hither  and  thither,  and  the  whole 
house  was  in  a  commotion.  In  the  distance  she  heard  the 
voice  of  Kirila  Petrovitch,  and  she  hastened  to  reach  her 
room,  fearing  that  her  absence  might  be  noticed.  Kirila 
Petrovitch  met  her  in  the  hall.  The  visitors  were  pressing 
round  our  old  acquaintance  the  sheriff,  and  were  over- 
whelming him  with  questions.  The  sherifif,  in  travelling 
dress,  and  armed  from  head  to  foot,  answered  them  with  a 
mysterious  and  anxious  air. 

"  Where  have  you  been,  Masha  ?  "  asked  Kirila  Petrovitch. 
"  Have  you  seen  Monsieur  Desforges  ?  " 

Masha  could  scarcely  answer  in  the  negative. 


'*  Just  imagine,"  continued  Kirila  Petrovitch :  "  the 
sheriff  has  come  to  arrest  him,  and  assures  me  that  he  is 

"He  answers  the  description  in  every  respect,  Your 
Excellency,"  said  the  sheriff  respectfully. 

"  Oh  !  brother,"  interrupted  Kirila  Petrovitch,  "  go  to — 
you  know  where — with  your  descriptions.  I  will  not  sur- 
render my  Frenchman  to  you  until  I  have  investigated  the 
matter  myself.  How  can  anyone  believe  the  word  of  Anton 
Pafnoutitch,  a  coward  and  a  clown  ?  He  must  have  dreamt 
that  the  tutor  wanted  to  rob  him.  Why  didn't  he  tell  me 
about  it  the  next  morning?  He  never  said  a  word  about 
the  matter. 

"The  Frenchman  threatened  him.  Your  Excellency," 
replied  the  sheriff,  "and  made  him  swear  that  he  would 
preserve  silence." 

"  A  pack  of  lies  !  "  exclaimed  Kirila  Petrovitch  :  "  I  will 
have  this  mystery  cleared  up  immediately.  Where  is  the 
tutor?"  he  asked  of  a  servant  who  entered  at  that  moment. 

"  He  cannot  be  found  anywhere,"  repUed  the  servant. 

"  Then  search  for  him  ! "  cried  Troekouroff,  beginning  to 
entertain  doubts. 

"Show  me  your  vaunted  description,"  said  he  to  the 
sheriff,  who  immediately  handed  him  the  paper. 

"  Hm  !  hm  !  twenty-three  years  old,  etc.,  etc.  That  is  so, 
but  yet  that  does  not  prove  anything.  Well,  what  about  the 

"  He  is  not  to  be  found,"  was  again  the  answer. 

Kirila  Petrovitch  began  to  be  uneasy;  Maria  Kirilovna 
was  neither  dead  nor  alive. 

"You  are  pale,  Masha,"  remarked  her  father  to  her; 
"  have  they  frightened  you  ?  " 

"  No,  papa,"  repHed  Masha ;  "  I  have  a  headache." 

"Go  to  your  own  rQpm,  Masha,  and  don't  be  alarmed." 


228         POUSHKIN'S  PROSE  TALES. 

Masha  kissed  his  hand  and  retired  hastily  to  her  room. 
There  she  threw  herself  upon  her  bed  and  burst  into  a  hysteri- 
cal flood  of  tears.  The  maids  hastened  to  her  assistance, 
undressed  her  with  difficulty,  and  with  difficulty  succeeded 
in  calming  her  by  means  of  cold  water  and  all  possible  kinds 
of  smelling  salts.  They  put  her  to  bed  and  she  fell  into  a 

In  the  meantime  the  Frenchman  could  not  be  found. 
Kirila  Petrovitch  paced  up  and  down  the  room,  loudly 
whistling  his  favourite  military  air.  The  visitors  whispered 
among  themselves ;  the  sheriff  looked  foolish ;  the  French- 
man was  not  to  be  found.  Probably  he  had  managed  to 
escape  through  being  warned  beforehand.  But  by  whom 
and  how  ?     That  remained  a  mystery. 

It  was  eleven  o'clock,  but  nobody  thought  of  sleep.  At 
last  Kirila  Petrovitch  said  angrily  to  the  sheriff : 

"  Well,  do  you  wish  to  stop  here  till  daylight  ?  My  house 
is  not  an  inn.  It  is  not  by  any  cleverness  on  your  part, 
brother,  that  Doubrovsky  will  be  taken — if  he  really  be 
Doubrovsky.  Return  home,  and  in  future  be  a  little 
quicker.  And  it  is  time  for  you  to  go  home,  too,"  he  con- 
tinued, addressing  his  guests.  "  Order  the  horses  to  be  got 
ready.     I  want  to  go  to  bed." 

In  this  ungracious  manner  did  Troekouroff  take  leave  of 
his  guests. 



SOME  time  elapsed  without  anything  remarkable  happen- 
ing. But  at  the  beginning  of  the  following  summer, 
many  changes  occurred  in  the  family  arrangements  of  Kirila 

About  thirty  versts  from  Pokrovskoe  was  the  wealthy 
estate  of  Prince  Vereisky.  The  Prince  had  lived  abroad  for 
a  long  time,  and  his  estate  was  managed  by  a  retired  major. 
No  intercourse  existed  between  Pokrovskoe  and  Arbatova. 
But  at  the  end  of  the  month  of  May,  the  Prince  returned 
from  abroad  and  took  up  his  abode  in  his  own  village,  which 
he  had  never  seen  since  he  was  born.  Accustomed  to  social 
pleasures,  he  could  not  endure  solitude,  and  the  third  day 
after  his  arrival,  he  set  out  to  dine  with  Troekouroff,  with 
whom  he  had  formerly  been  acquainted.  The  Prince  was 
about  fifty  years  of  age,  but  he  looked  much  older.  Excesses 
of  every  kind  had  ruined  his  health,  and  had  placed  upon 
him  their  indelible  stamp.  In  spite  of  that,  his  appearance 
was  agreeable  and  distinguished,  and  his  having  always  been 
accustomed  to  society  gave  him  a  certain  afifabihty  of 
demeanour,  especially  towards  ladies.  He  had  a  constant 
need  of  amusement,  and  he  was  a  constant  victim  to 

Kirila  Petrovitch  was  exceedingly  gratified  by  this  visit, 
which  he  regarded  as  a  mark  of  respect  from  a  man  who 
knew  the  world.  In  accordance  with  his  usual  custom,  he 
began  to  entertain  his  visitor  by  conducting  him  to  inspect 
his  establishments  and  kennels.  But  the  Prince  could  hardly 

230      poushkin's  prose  tales. 

breathe  in  the  atmosphere  of  the  dogs,  and  he  hurried  out, 
holding  a  scented  handkerchief  to  his  nose.  The  old  garden, 
with  its  clipped  limes,  square  pond  and  regular  walks,  did 
not  please  him ;  he  did  not  like  the  English  gardens  and  the 
so-called  natural  style,  but  he  praised  them  and  went  into 
ecstasies  over  everything.  The  servant  came  to  announce 
that  dinner  was  served,  and  they  repaired  to  the  dining- 
room.  The  Prince  limped,  being  fatigued  after  his  walk,  and 
already  repenting  for  having  paid  his  visit. 

But  in  the  dining-hall  Maria  Kirilovna  met  them — and 
the  old  sensualist  was  struck  by  her  beauty.  Troekouroff 
placed  his  guest  beside  her.  The  Prince  was  resuscitated  by 
her  presence;  he  became  quite  cheerful,  and  succeeded 
several  times  in  arresting  her  attention  by  the  recital  of 
some  of  his  curious  stories.  After  dinner  Kirila  Petrovitch 
proposed  a  ride  on  horseback,  but  the  Prince  excused  him- 
self, pointing  to  his  velvet  boots  and  joking  about  his  gout. 
He  proposed  a  drive  in  a  carriage,  so  that  he  should  not  be 
,  separated  from  his  charming  neighbour.  The  carriage  was 
got  ready.  The  two  old  men  and  the  beautiful  young  girl 
took  their  seats  in  it,  and  they  started  off.  The  conversa- 
tion did  not  flag.  Maria  Kirilovna  listened  with  pleasure  to 
the  flattering  compliments  and  witty  remarks  of  the  man  of 
the  world,  when  suddenly  Vereisky,  turning  to  Kirila 
Petrovitch,  said  to  him :  "  What  is  the  meaning  of  that 
burnt  building — does  it  belong  to  you  ?  " 

Kirila  Petrovitch  frowned:  the  memories  awakened  by 
the  burnt  manor-house  were  disagreeable  to  him.  He 
replied  that  the  land  was  his  now,  but  that  formerly  it  had 
belonged  to  Doubrovsky. 

"  To  Doubrovsky  ?  "  repeated  Vereisky.  "  What !  to  the 
famous  brigand  ?  " 

"To  his  father,"  replied  Troekourofl":  "and  the  father 
himself  was  a  true  brigand," 


"And  what  has  become  of  our  Rinaldo?  Have  they 
caught  him  ?     Is  he  still  alive  ?  " 

"  He  is  still  alive  and  at  liberty.  By  the  way,  Prince, 
Doubrovsky  paid  you  a  visit  at  Arbatova." 

"  Yes,  last  year,  I  think,  he  burnt  or  plundered  some- 
thing or  other.  Don't  you  think,  Maria  Kirilovna,  that  it 
would  be  very  interesting  to  make  a  closer  acquaintance 
with  this  romantic  hero  ?  " 

"Interesting!"  said  TroekourofF:  "she  knows  him 
already.  He  taught  her  music  for  three  whole  weeks,  and 
thank  God,  took  nothing  for  his  lessons." 

Then  Kirila  Petrovitch  began  to  relate  the  story  of  the 
pretended  French  tutof.  Maria  Kirilovna  felt  as  if  she 
were  sitting  upon  needles.  Vereisky,  listening  with  deep 
attention,  found  it  all  very  strange,  and  changed  the  subject 
of  conversation.  On  returning  from  the  drive,  he  ordered 
his  carriage  to  be  brought,  and  in  spite  of  the  earnest 
requests  of  Kirila  Petrovitch  to  stay  for  the  night,  he  took 
his  departure  immediately  after  tea.  Before  setting  out,  how- 
ever, he  invited  Kirila  Petrovitch  to  pay  him  a  visit  and  to 
bring  Maria  Kirilovna  with  him,  and  the  proud  Troekouroff 
promised  to  do  so ;  for  taking  into  consideration  his  princely 
dignity,  his  two  stars,  and  the  three  thousand  serfs  belong- 
ing to  his  estate,  he  regarded  Prince  Vereisky  in  some 
degree  as  his  equal. 



TWO  days  after  this  visit,  Kirila  Petrovitch  set  out  with 
his  daughter  for  the  abode  of  Prince  Vereisky.  On 
approaching  Arbatova,  he  could  not  sufficiently  admire  the 
clean  and  cheerful-looking  huts  of  the  peasants,  and  the 
stone  manor-house  built  in  the  style  of  an  English  castle. 
In  front  of  the  house  stretched  a  close  green  lawn,  upon 
which  were  grazing  some  Swiss  cows  tinkling  their  bells.  A 
spacious  park  surrounded  the  house  on  every  side.  The 
master  met  the  guests  on  the  steps,  and  gave  his  arm  to  the 
young  beauty.  She  was  then  conducted  into  a  magnificent 
hall,  where  the  table  was  laid  for  three.  The  Prince  led  his 
guests  to  a  window,  and  a  charming  view  opened  out  before 
them.  The  Volga  flowed  past  the  windows,  and  upon  its 
bosom  floated  laden  barges  under  full  sail,  and  small  fish- 
ing-boats known  by  the  expressive  name  of  *'  soul- 
destroyers."  Beyond  the  river  stretched  hills  and  fields, 
and  several  little  villages  animated  the  landscape. 

Then  they  proceeded  to  inspect  the  galleries  of  pictures 
bought  by  the  Prince  in  foreign  countries.  The  Prince 
explained  to  Maria  Kirilovna  their  various  characteristics, 
related  the  history  of  the  painters,  and  pointed  out  their 
merits  and  defects.  He  did  not  speak  of  pictures  in  the 
pretentious  language  of  the  pedantic  connoisseur,  but  with 
feeling  and  imagination.  Maria  Kirilovna  listened  to  him 
with  pleasure. 

They  sat  down  to  table.  Troekouroff  rendered  full 
justice  to  the  wines  of  his  Amphytrion,  and  to  the  skill  of 


his  cook ;  while  Maria  Kirilovna  did  not  feel  at  all  confused 
or  constrained  in  her  conversation  with  a  man  whom  she 
now  saw  for  the  second  time  in  her  Hfe.  After  dinner  the 
host  proposed  to  his  guests  that  they  should  go  into  the 
garden.  They  drank  coffee  in  the  arbour  on  the  bank  of  a 
broad  lake  studded  with  little  islands.  Suddenly  resounded 
the  music  of  wind  instruments,  and  a  six-oared  boat  drew 
up  before  the  arbour.  They  rowed  on  the  lake,  round  the 
islands,  and  visited  some  of  them.  On  one  they  found  a 
marble  statue ;  on  another,  a  lonely  grotto ;  on  a  third,  a 
monument  with  a  mysterious  inscription,  which  awakened 
within  Maria  Kirilovna  a  girlish  curiosity  not  completely 
satisfied  by  the  polite  but  reticent  explanations  of  the 
Prince.  The  time  passed  imperceptibly.  It  began  to  grow 
dark.  The  Prince,  under  the  pretext  of  the  cold  and  the 
dew,  hastened  to  return  to  the  house,  where  the  tea-urn 
awaited  them.  The  Prince  requested  Maria  Kirilovna  to 
discharge  the  functions  of  hostess  in  his  bachelor's  home. 
She  poured  out  the  tea,  listening  to  the  inexhaustible  stories 
of  the  charming  talker.  Suddenly  a  shot  was  heard,  and  a 
rocket  illuminated  the  sky.  The  Prince  gave  Maria 
Kirilovna  a  shawl,  and  led  her  and  Troekouroff  on  to  the 
balcony.  In  front  of  the  house,  in  the  darkness,  different 
coloured  fires  blazed  up,  whirled  round,  rose  up  in  sheaves, 
poured  out  in  fountains,  fell  in  showers  of  rain  and  stars, 
went  out  and  then  burst  into  a  blaze  again.  Maria 
Kirilovna  was  as  delighted  as  a  child.  Prince  Vereisky  was 
delighted  with  her  enjoyment,  and  Troekouroff  was  very 
well  satisfied  with  him,  for  he  accepted  tons  les  frais  of  the 
Prince  as  signs  of  respect  and  a  desire  to  please  him. 

The  supper  was  quite  equal  to  the  dinner  in  every  respect. 
Then  the  guests  retired  to  the  rooms  assigned  to  them,  and 
the  next  morning  took  leave  of  their  amiable  host,  promising 
each  other  soon  to  meet  again. 



MARIA  KIRILOVNA  was  sitting  in  her  room,  em- 
broidering at  her  frame  before  the  open  window. 
She  did  not  entangle  her  threads  like  Conrad's  mistress,  who, 
in  her  amorous  distraction,  embroidered  a  rose  with  green 
silk.  Under  her  needle,  the  canvas  repeated  unerringly  the 
design  of  the  original ;  but  in  spite  of  that,  her  thoughts  did 
not  follow  her  work — they  were  far  away. 

Suddenly  an  arm  passed  silently  through  the  window, 
placed  a  letter  upon  the  frame  and  disappeared  before 
Maria  Kirilovna  could  recover  herself.  At  the  same 
moment  a  servant  entered  to  call  her  to  Kirila  Petrovitch. 
Trembling  very  much,  she  hid  the  letter  under  her  fichu 
and  hastened  to  her  father  in  his  study. 

Kirila  Petrovitch  was  not  alone.  Prince  Vereisky  was 
sitting  in  the  room  with  him.  On  the  appearance  of  Maria 
Kirilovna,  the  Prince  rose  and  silently  bowed,  with  a  con- 
fusion that  was  quite  unusual  in  him. 

"  Come  here,  Masha,"  said  Kirila  Petrovitch  :  "  I  have  a 
piece  of  news  to  tell  you  which  I  hope  will  please  you  very 
much.  Here  is  a  sweetheart  for  you  :  the  Prince  proposes 
for  your  hand." 

Masha  was  dumfounded;  a  deadly  pallor  overspread 
her  countenance.  She  was  silent.  The  Prince  approached 
her,  took  her  hand,  and  with  a  tender  look,  asked  her  if  she 
would  consent  to  make  him  happy.  Masha  remained 

"Consent?    Of  course   she   will   consent,"   said   Kirila 


Petrovitch  ;  "  but  you  know,  Prince,  it  is  difficult  for  a  girl 
to  say  such  a  word  as  that.  Well,  children,  kiss  one 
another  and  be  happy." 

Masha  stood  motionless ;  the  old  Prince  kissed  her  hand. 
Suddenly  the  tears  began  to  stream  down  her  pale  cheeks. 
The  Prince  frowned  slightly. 

'*Go,  go,  go!"  said  Kirila  Petrovitch  :  "dry  your  tears 
and  come  back  to  us  in  a  merry  humour.  They  all  weep  at 
the  moment  of  being  betrothed,"  he  continued,  turning  to 
Vereisky;  "it  is  their  custom.  Now,  Prince,  let  us  talk 
about  business,  that  is  to  say,  about  the  dowry." 

Maria  Kirilovna  eagerly  took  advantage  of  the  permission 
to  retire.  She  ran  to  her  room,  locked  herself  in  and  gave 
way  to  her  tears,  already  imagining  herself  the  wife  of  the 
old  Prince.  He  had  suddenly  become  repugnant  and  hate- 
ful to  her.  Marriage  terrified  her,  like  the  block,  like  the 

"  No,  no,"  she  repeated  in,  despair ;  "I  would  rather  go 
into  a  convent,  I  would  rather  marry  Doubrovsky  .  .  .  ." 

Then  she  remembered  the  letter  and  eagerly  began  to 
read  it,  having  a  presentiment  that  it  was  from  him.  In 
fact,  it  was  written  by  him,  and  contained  only  the  following 
words : 

'^This  evening,  at  ten  o'clock,  in  the  same  place  as 

The  moon  was  shining ;  the  night  was  calm ;  the  wind 
rose  now  and  then,  and  a  gentle  rustle  ran  over  the  garden. 

Like  a  light  shadow,  the  beautiful  young  girl  drew  near  to 
the  appointed  meeting-place.  Nobody  was  yet  visible, 
when  suddenly,  from  behind  the  arbour,  Doubrovsky  ap 
peared  before  her. 

"  I  know  all,"  he  said  to  her  in  a  low,  sad  voice ;  "  re- 
member your  promise." 

"  You  offer  me   your  protection,"  replied  Masha ;  "  do 

236  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

not  be  angry — but  the  idea  alarms  me.  In  what  way  can 
you  help  me  ?  " 

*'  I  can  deliver  you  from  a  detested  man  .  .  ." 

"  For  God's  sake,  do  not  touch  him,  do  not  venture  to 
touch  him,  if  you  love  me.  I  do  not  wish  to  be  the  cause 
of  any  horror  .  .  ." 

"  I  will  not  touch  him  :  your  wish  is  sacred  for  me.  He 
owes  his  life  to  you.  Never  shall  a  crime  be  committed  in 
your  name.  You  shall  not  be  stigmatized  on  account  of 
my  misdeeds.  But  how  can  I  save  you  from  a  cruel 

"  There  is  still  hope ;  I  hope  to  touch  him  with  my  tears 
— my  despair.  He  is  obstinate,  but  he  loves  me  very 

*'  Do  not  put  your  trust  in  a  vain  hope.  In  those  tears 
he  will  see  only  the  usual  timidity  and  aversion  common  to 
all  young  girls,  when  they  marry  from  motives  of  interest 
and  not  from  affection.  But  if  he  takes  it  into  his  head  to 
accomplish  your  happiness  in  spite  of  yourself  ?  If  you  are 
conducted  to  the  altar  by  force,  in  order  that  your  destiny 
may  be  placed  for  ever  in  the  hands  of  an  old  man  ?  " » 

"  Then — then  there  will  be  nothing  else  to  do.  Come 
for  me — I  will  be  your  wife." 

Doubrovsky  trembled ;  his  pale  face  became  covered 
with  a  deep  flush,  and  the  next  minute  he  became  paler 
than  before.  He  remained  silent  for  a  long  time,  with  his 
head  bent  down. 

"  Muster  the  full  strength  of  your  soul,  implore  your 
father,  throw  yourself  at  his  feet ;  represent  to  him  all  the 
horror  of  the  future  that  he  is  preparing  for  you,  your  youth 
fading  away  by  the  side  of  a  feeble  and  dissipated  old  man. 
Tell  him  that  riches  will  not  procure  for  you  a  single 
moment  of  happiness.  Luxury  consoles  poverty  alone,  and 
even  in  that  case  only  for  a  brief  season.     Do  not  be  put 


off  by  him,  and  do  not  be  frightened  either  by  his  anger  or 
by  his  threats,  as  long  as  there  remains  the  least  shadow  of 
hope.  For  God's  sake  do  not  leave  off  importuning  him. 
If,  however,  you  have  no  other  resource  left,  decide  upon  a 
plain  speaking  explanation ;  tell  him  that  if  he  remains  in- 
exorable, then — then  you  will  find  a  terrible  protector." 

Here  Doubrovsky  covered  his  face  with  his  hands;  he 
seemed  to  be  choking.     Masha  wept. 

"  My  miserable,  miserable  fate ! "  said  he,  with  a  bitter 
sigh.  "  For  you  I  would  have  given  my  life.  To  see  you 
from  afar,  to  touch  your  hand  was  for  me  happiness  beyond 
expression ;  and  when  there  opens  up  before  me  the  possi- 
bility of  pressing  you  to  my  agitated  heart,  and  saying  to 
you  :  *  I  am  yours  for  ever  * — miserable  creature  that  I  am  ! 
I  must  fly  from  such  happiness,  I  must  repel  it  from  me 
with  all  my  strength.  I  dare  not  throw  myself  at  your  feet 
and  thank  Heaven  for  an  incomprehensible,  unmerited 
reward.  Oh !  how  I  ought  to  hate  him  who — but  I  feel 
that  now  there  is  no  place  in  my  heart  for  hatred." 

He  gently  passed  his  arm  round  her  slender  figure  and 
pressed  hen  tenderly  to  his  heart.  She  confidingly  leaned 
her  head  upon  the  young  brigand's  shoulder  and  both  re- 
mained silent.  .  .  .  The  time  flew  past. 

"  It  is  time,"  said  Masha  at  last. 

Doubrovsky  seemed  as  if  awakening  from  a  dream.  He 
took  her  hand  and  placed  a  ring  on  her  finger. 

"  If  you  decide  upon  having  recourse  to  me,"  said  he, 
"  then  bring  the  ring  here  and  place  it  in  the  hollow  of  this 
oak.     I  shall  know  what  to  do." 

Doubrovsky  kissed  her  hand  and  disappeared  among  the 



PRINCE  VEREISKY'S  intention  of  getting  married 
was  no  longer  a  secret  in  the  neighbourhood.  Kirila 
Petrovitch  received  the  congratulations  of  his  acquaintances, 
and  preparations  were  made  for  the  wedding.  Masha  post- 
poned from  day  to  day  the  decisive  explanation.  In  the 
meantime  her  manner  towards  her  elderly  lover  was  cold 
and  constrained.  The  Prince  did  not  trouble  himself 
about  that ;  the  question  of  love  gave  him  no  concern ;  her 
silent  consent  was  quite  sufficient  for  him. 

But  the  time  went  past.  Masha  at  last  decided  to  act, 
and  wrote  a  letter  to  Prince  Vereisky.  She  tried  to  awaken 
within  his  heart  a  feeling  of  magnanimity,  candidly  confess- 
ing that  she  had  not  the  least  attachment  for  him,  and  en- 
treating him  to  renounce  her  hand  and  even  to  protect  her 
from  the  tyranny  of  her  father.  She  furtively  delivered  the 
letter  to  Prince  Vereisky.  The  latter  read  it  alone,  but  was 
not  in  the  least  moved  by  the  candour  of  his  betrothed. 
On  the  contrary,  he  perceived  the  necessity  of  hastening  the 
marriage,  and  therefore  he  showed  the  letter  to  his  future 

Kirila  Petrovitch  was  furious,  and  it  was  with  difficulty 
that  the  Prince  succeeded  in  persuading  him  not  to  let 
Masha  see  that  he  was  acquainted  with  the  contents  of  the 
letter.  Kirila  Petrovitch  promised  not  to  speak  about  the 
matter  to  her,  but  he  resolved  to  lose  no  time  and  fixed  the 
wedding  for  the  next  day.  The  Prince  found  this  very 
reasonable,  and  he  went  to  his  betrothed  and  told  her  that 


her  letter  had  grieved  him  very  much,  but  that  he  hoped 
in  time  to  gain  her  affection ;  that  the  thought  of  resigning 
her  was  too  much  for  him  to  bear,  and  that  he  had  not  the 
strength  to  consent  to  his  own  sentence  of  death.  Then 
he  kissed  her  hand  respectfully  and  took  his  departure, 
without  saying  a  word  to  her  about  Kirila  Petrovitch's 

But  scarcely  had  he  left  the  house,  when  her  father  entered 
and  peremptorily  ordered  her  to  be  ready  for  the  next  day. 
Maria  Kirilovna,  already  agitated  by  the  interview  with 
Prince  Vereisky,  burst  into  tears  and  threw  herself  at  her 
father's  feet. 

"  Papa  ! "  she  cried  in  a  plaintive  voice,  "  papa !  do  not 
destroy  me.  I  do  not  love  the  Prince,  I  do  not  wish  to  be 
his  wife." 

"  What  does  this  mean  ?  "  said  Kirila  Petrovitch,  fiercely. 
"  Up  till  the  present  you  have  kept  silent  and  consented, 
and  now,  when  everything  is  decided  upon,  you  become 
capricious  and  refuse  to  accept  him.  Don't  act  the  fool ; 
you  will  gain  nothing  from  me  by  so  doing." 

"  Do  not  destroy  me  !"  repeated  poor  Masha.  **  Why  are 
you  sending  me  away  from  you  and  giving  me  to  a  man  that 
I  do  not  love  ?  Do  I  weary  you  ?  I  want  to  stay  with  you 
as  before.  Papa,  you  will  be  sad  without  me,  and  sadder 
still  when  you  know  that  I  am  unhappy.  Papa,  do  not  force 
me  :  I  do  not  wish  to  marry." 

Kirila  Petrovitch  was  touched,  but  he  concealed  his 
emotion,  and  pushing  her  away  from  him,  said  harshly : 

"  That  is  all  nonsense,  do  you  hear  ?  I  know  better  than 
you  what  is  necessary  for  your  happiness.  Tears  will  not 
help  you.  The  day  after  to-morrow  your  wedding  will  take 

''  The  day  after  to-morrow  ! "  exclaimed  Masha.  "  My 
God  !     No,  no,  impossible  ;  it  cannot  be  !     Papa,  hear  me  • 

240         POUSHKIN'S  PROSE  TALES. 

if  you  have  resolved  to  destroy  me,  then  I  will  find  a  pro- 
tector that  you  do  not  dream  of.  You  will  see,  and  then  you 
will  regret  having  driven  me  to  despair." 

"  What  ?  What  ?  "  said  Troekouroff.  "  Threats  !  threats 
to  me  ?  Insolent  girl  I  Do  you  know  that  I  will  do  with 
you  what  you  little  imagine.  You  dare  to  frighten  me,  you 
worthless  girl !    We  will  see  who  this  protector  will  be," 

**  Vladimir  Doubrovsky,"  replied  Masha,  in  despair. 

Kirila  Petrovitch  thought  that  she  had  gone  out  of  her 
mind,  and  looked  at  her  in  astonishment. 

"  Very  well !  "  said  he  to  her,  after  an  interval  of  silence ; 
"  expect  whom  you  please  to  deliver  you,  but,  in  the  mean- 
time, remain^n  this  room — you  shall  not  leave  it  till  the  very 
moment  of  the  wedding." 

With  these  words  Kirila  Petrovitch  went  out,  locking  the 
door  behind  him. 

For  a  long  time  the  poor  girl  wept,  imagining  all  that 
awaited  her.  But  the  stormy  interview  had  lightened  her 
soul,  and  she  could  more  calmly  consider  the  question  of 
her  future  and  what  it  behoved  her  to  do.  The  principal 
thing  was — to  free  herself  from  this  odious  marriage.  The 
lot  of  a  brigand's  wife  seemed  paradise  to  her  in  comparison 
with  the  fate  prepared  for  her.  She  glanced  at  the  ring  given 
to  her  by  Doubrovsky.  Ardently  did  she  long  to  see  him 
alone  once  more  before  the  decisive  moment,  so  that 
she  might  concert  measures  with  him.  A  presentiment  told 
her  that  in  the  evening  she  would  find  Doubrovsky  in  the 
garden,  near  the  arbour;  she  resolved  to  go  and  wait  for  him 

As  soon  as  it  began  to  grow  dark,  Masha  prepared  to 
carry  out  her  intention,  but  the  door  of  her  room  was 
locked.  Her  maid  told  her  from  the  other  side  of  the  door, 
that  Kirila  Petrovitch  had  given  orders  that  she  was  not  to 
be  let  out.     She  was  under  arrest.     Deeply  hurt,  she  sat 


down  by  the  window  and  remained  there  till  late  in  the 
night,  without  undressing,  gazing  fixedly  at  the  dark  sky. 
Towards  dawn  she  began  to  doze ;  but  her  light  sleep  was 
disturbed  by  sad  visions,  and  she  was  soon  awakened  by  the 
rays  of  the  rising  sun. 




SHE  awoke,  and  all  the  horror  of  her  position  rose  up  in 
her  mind.  She  rang.  The  maid  entered,  and  in 
answer  to  her  questions,  replied  that  Kirila  Petrovitch 
had  set  out  the  evening  before  for  Arbatova,  and  had 
returned  very  late ;  that  he  had  given  strict  orders  that  she 
was  not  to  be  allowed  out  of  her  room  and  that  nobody  was 
to  be  permitted  to  speak  to  her ;  that  otherwise,  there  were 
no  signs  of  any  particular  preparations  for  the  wedding,  ex- 
cept that  the  pope  had  been  ordered  not  to  leave  the  village 
under  any  pretext  whatever.  After  disburdening  herself  of 
this  news,  the  maid  left  Maria  Kirilovna  and  again  locked 
the  door. 

Her  words  hardened  the  young  prisoner.  Her  head 
burned,  her  blood  boiled.  She  resolved  to  inform  Dou- 
brovsky  of  everything,  and  she  began  to  think  of  some 
means  by  which  she  could  get  the  ring  conveyed  to  the  hole  in 
the  sacred  oak.  At  that  moment  a  stone  struck  against  her 
window ;  the  glass  rattled,  and  Maria  Kirilovna,  looking  out 
into  the  courtyard,  saw  the  little  Sasha  making  signs  to  her. 
She  knew  that  he  was  attached  to  her,  and  she  was  pleased 
to  see  him. 

"  Good  morning,  Sasha ;  why  do  you  call  me  ?  " 

"  I  came,  sister,  to  know  if  you  wanted  anything.  Papa  is 
angry,  and  has  forbidden  the  whole  house  to  obey  you ;  but 
order  me  to  do  whatever  you  like,  and  I  will  do  it  for  you." 

"  Thank  you,  my  dear  Sasha.  Listen ;  you  know  the  old 
hollow  oak  near  the  arbour  ?  " 


"  Yes,  I  know  it,  sister." 

**  Then,  if  you  love  me,  run  there  as  quickly  as  you  can 
and  put  this  ring  in  the  hollow ;  but  take  care  that  nobody 
sees  you." 

With  these  words,  she  threw  the  ring  to  him  and  closed 
the  window. 

The  lad  picked  up  the  ring,  and  ran  off  with  all  his  might, 
and  in  three  minutes  he  arrived  at  the  sacred  tree.  There 
he  paused,  quite  out  of  breath,  and  after  looking  round  on 
every  side,  placed  the  ring  in  the  hollow.  Having  success- 
fully accomplished  his  mission,  he  wanted  to  inform  Maria 
Kirilovna  of  the  fact  at  once,  when  suddenly  a  red-haired 
ragged  boy  darted  out  from  behind  the  arbour,  dashed 
towards  the  oak  and  thrust  his  hand  into  the  hole.  Sasha, 
quicker  than  a  squirrel,  threw  himself  upon  him  and  seized 
him  with  both  hands. 

"What  are  you  doing  here?"  said  he  sternly. 

"  What  business  is  that  of  yours  ?  "  said  the  boy,  trying  to 
disengage  himself. 

"  Leave  that  ring  alone,  red  head,"  cried  Sasha,  '*  or  I  will 
teach  you  a  lesson  in  my  own  style." 

Instead  of  replying,  the  boy  gave  him  a  blow  in  the  face 
with  his  fist ;  but  Sasha  still  held  him  firmly  in  his  grasp,  and 
cried  out  at  the  top  of  his  voice  : 

"  Thieves  !  thieves  !  help  !  help  ! " 

The  boy  tried  to  get  away  from  him.  He  seemed  to 
be  about  two  years  older  than  Sasha,  and  very  much 
stronger;  but  Sasha  was  more  agile.  They  struggled  to- 
gether for  some  minutes;  at  last  the  red-headed  boy 
gained  the  advantage.  He  threw  Sasha  upon  the  ground 
and  seized  him  by  the  throat.  But  at  that  moment  a 
strong  hand  grasped  hold  of  his  shaggy  red  hair,  and 
Stepan,  the  gardener,  lifted  him  half  a  yard  from  the 


"  Ah  !  you  red-headed  beast ! "  said  the  gardener.  '*  How 
dare  you  strike  the  young  gentleman  ?  " 

In  the  meantime,  Sasha  had  jumped  to  his  feet  and 
recovered  himself. 

"  You  caught  me  under  the  arm-pits,"  said  he,  "  or  you 
would  never  have  thrown  me.  Give  me  the  ring  at  once  and 
be  off." 

**  It's  likely ! "  replied  the  red-headed  one,  and  suddenly 
twisting  himself  round,  he  disengaged  his  bristles  from 
Stepan's  hand. 

Then  he  started  off  running,  but  Sasha  overtook  him, 
gave  him  a  blow  in  the  back,  and  the  boy  fell.  The 
gardener  again  seized  him  and  bound  him  with  his 

"  Give  me  the  ring  ! "  cried  Sasha. 

"Wait  a  moment,  young  master,"  said  Stepan;  *'we  will 
lead  him  to  the  baihff  to  be  questioned." 

The  gardener  led  the  captive  into  the  courtyard  of  the 
manor-house,  accompanied  by  Sasha,  who  glanced  uneasily 
at  his  trousers,  torn  and  stained  with  the  grass.  Suddenly  all 
three  found  themselves  face  to  face  with  Kirila  Petrovitch, 
who  was  going  to  inspect  his  stables. 

"  What  is  the  meaning  of  this  ?  "  he  said  to  Stepan. 

Stepan  in  a  few  words  related  all  that  had  happened. 

Kirila  Petrovitch  listened  to  him  with  attention. 

"  You  rascal,"  said  he,  turning  to  Sasha :  "  why  did  you 
wrestle  with  him  ?  " 

"  He  stole  a  ring  out  of  the  hollow  tree,  papa;  make  him 
give  up  the  ring." 

"  What  ring  ?     Out  of  what  hollow  tree  ?  " 

"The  one  that  Maria  Kirilovna  .  .  .  the  ring.  .  .  ." 
Sasha  stammered  and  became  confused.  Kirila  Petrovitch 
frowned  and  said,  shaking  his  head  : 

"  Ah !  Maria  Kirilovna  is   mixed   up  in  this.     Confess 


everything,  or  I  will  give  you  such  a  birching  as  you  have 
never  had  in  your  life." 

"As  true  as  heaven,  papa,  I  .  .  .  papa  .  .  .  Maria 
Kirilovna  never  told  me  to  do  anything,  papa." 

"  Stepan,  go  and  cut  me  some  fine,  fresh  birch  twigs." 

"  Stop,  papa,  I  will  tell  you  all.  I  was  running  about  the 
courtyard  to-day,  when  sister  Maria  Kirilovna  opened  the 
window.^  I  ran  towards  her,  and  she  accidentally  dropped 
a  ring,  and  I  went  and  hid  it  in  the  hollow  tree,  and  .  .  .  and 
this  red-headed  fellow  wanted  to  steal  the  ring." 

"  She  did  not  drop  it  accidentally, — you  wanted  to  hide 
it  .  .  .  Stepan,  go  and  get  the  birch  twigs." 

"Papa,  wait,  I  will  tell  you  everything.  Sister  Maria 
Kirilovna  told  me  to  run  to  the  oak  tree  and  put  the  ring  in 
the  hollow ;  I  ran  and  did  so,  but  this  nasty  fellow " 

Kirila  Petrovitch  turned  to  the  "  nasty  fellow  "  and  said 
to  him  sternly : 

"  To  whom  do  you  belong  ?  " 

"  I  belong  to  my  master  Doubrovsky." 

Kirila  Petrovitch's  face  grew  dark. 

"It  seems,  then,  that  you  do  not  recognize  me  as  your 
master.     Very  well.     What  were  you  doing  in  my  garden  ?  " 

"  I  was  stealing  raspberries." 

"  Ah,  ah  !  the  servant  is  like  his  master  As  the  pope  is, 
so  is  his  parish.  And  do  my  raspberries  grow  upon  oak 
trees  ?    Have  you  ever  heard  so  ?  " 

The  boy  did  not  reply. 

"  Papa,  make  him  give  up  the  ring,"  said  Sasha. 

"  Silence,  Alexander  ! "  replied  Kirila  Petrovitch ;  "  don't 
forget  that  I  intend  to  settle  with  you  presently.  Go  to 
your  room.  And  you,  squint-eyes,  you  seem  to  me  to  be  a 
knowing  sort  of  lad  ;  if  you  confess  everything  to  me,  I  will 
not  whip  you,  but  will  give  you  a  five  copeck  piece  to  buy 
nuts  with.     Give  up  the  ring  and  go." 


The  boy  opened  his  fist  and  showed  that  there  was 
nothing  in  his  hand. 

"  If  you  don't,  I  shall  do  something  to  you  that  you  little 
expect.     Now ! " 

The  boy  did  not  answer  a  word,  but  stood  with  his  head 
bent  down,  looking  Hke  a  perfect  simpleton. 

"Very  well!"  said  Kirila  Petrovitch :  "lock  him  up 
somewhere,  and  see  that  he  does  not  escape,  or  I'll  skin  the 
whole  household." 

Stepan  conducted  the  boy  to  the  pigeon  loft,  locked  him 
in  there,  and  ordered  the  old  poultry  woman,  Agatha,  to 
keep  a  watch  upon  him.  ^ 

"  There  is  no  doubt  about  it :  she  has  kept  up  intercourse 
with  that  accursed  Doubrovsky.   But  if  she  has  really  invoked 

his  aid "  thought  Kirila  Petrovitch,  pacing  up  and  down 

the  room,  and  angrily  whistling  his  favourite  air, "  I  am 

hot  upon  his  track,  at  all  events,  and  he  shall  not  escape 
me.  We  shall  take  advantage  of  this  opportunity.  .  .  . 
Hark  !  a  bell ;  thank  God,  that  is  the  sheriff.  Bring  here 
the  boy  that  is  locked  up." 

In  the  meantime,  a  small  telega  drove  into  the  courtyard, 
and  our  old  acquaintance,  the  sheriff,  entered  the  room,  all 
covered  with  dust. 

"  Glorious  news  ! "  said  Kirila  Petrovitch  :  "  I  have  caught 

"  Thank  God,  Your  Excellency ! "  said  the  sheriff,  his 
face  beaming  with  delight.     "  Where  is  he  ?  " 

"That  is  to  say,  not  Doubrovsky  himself,  but  one  of  his 
band.  He  will  be  here  presently.  He  will  help  us  to 
apprehend  his  chief.     Here  he  is." 

The  sheriff,  who  expected  to  see  some  fierce-looking 
brigand,  was  astonished  to  perceive  a  lad  of  thirteen  years  of 
age,  of  somewhat  delicate  appearance.  He  turned  to  Kirila 
Petrovitch  with  an  incredulous  look,  and  awaited  an  ex- 


planation.  Kirila  Petrovitch  then  began  to  relate  the  events 
of  the  morning,  without,  however,  mentioning  the  name  of 
Maria  Kirilovna. 

The  sheriff  listened  to  him  attentively,  glancing  from  time 
to  time  at  the  young  rogue,  who^  assuming  a  look  of  im- 
becility, seemed  to  be  paying  no  attention  to  all  that  was 
going  on  around  him. 

"  Will  Your  Excellency  allow  me  to  speak  to  you  apart  ?  " 
said  the  sheriff  at  last. 

Kirila  Petrovitch  conducted  him  into  the  next  room  and 
locked  the  door  after  him. 

Half  an  hour  afterwards  they  returned  to  the  hall,  where 
the  captive  was  awaiting  the  decision  respecting  his  fate. 

"The  master  wished,"  said  the  sheriff  to  him,  *'to  have 
you  locked  up  in  the  town  gaol,  to  be  whipped,  and  then  to 
be  sent  to  the  convict  settlement ;  but  I  interceded  for  you 
and  have  obtained  your  pardon.     Untie  him  i" 

The  lad  was  unbound. 

"  Thank  the  master,"  said  the  sheriff. 

The  lad  went  up  to  Kirila  Petrovitch  and  kissed  his 

"Run  away  home,"  said  Kirila  Petrovitch  to  him,  "and 
in  future  do  not  steal  raspberries  from  oak  trees." 

The  lad  went  out,  ran  merrily  down  the  steps,  and  with- 
out looking  behind  him,  dashed  off  across  the  fields  in  the 
direction  of  Kistenevka.  On  reaching  the  village,  he 
stopped  at  a  half-ruined  hut,  the  first  from  the  corner,  and 
tapped  at  the  window.  The  window  was  opened,  and  an 
old  woman  appeared. 

"  Grandmother,  some  bread  ! "  said  the  boy :  "  I  have 
eaten  nothing  since  this  morning  ;  I  am  dying  of  hunger." 

"  Ah  !  it  is  you,  Mitia ;  ^  but  where  have  you  been  all  this 
time,  you  little  devil  ?  "  asked  the  old  woman. 
^  Diminutive  of  Dimitry  (Demetrius). 

248  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

"I  will  tell  you  afterwards,  grandmother.  For  God's 
sake,  some  bread  !  " 

"  Come  into  the  hut,  then." 

"  I  haven't  the  time,  grandmother ;  I've  got  to  run  on  to 
another  place.     Bread,  for  the  Lord's  sake,  bread ! " 

"What  a  fidget !"  grumbled  the  old  woman  :  **  there's  a 
piece  for  you,"  and  she  pushed  through  the  window  a  slice 
of  black  bread. 

The  boy  bit  it  with  avidity,  and  then  continued  his  course, 
eating  it  as  he  went. 

It  was  beginning  to  grow  dark.  Mitia  made  his  way 
along  by  the  corn  kilns  and  kitchen  gardens  into  the 
Kistenevka  wood.  On  arriving  at  the  two  pine  trees, 
standing  hke  advanced  guards  before  the  wood,  he  paused, 
looked  round  on  every  side,  gave  a  shrill,  abrupt  whistle, 
and  then  listened.  A  light  and  prolonged  whistle  was 
heard  in  reply,  and  somebody  came  out  of  the  wood  and 
advanced  towards  him.  v 



KIRILA  PETROVITCH  was  pacing  up  and  down  the 
hall,  whistling  his  favourite  air  louder  than  usual. 
The  whole  house  was  in  a  commotion ;  the  servants  were 
running  about,  and  the  maids  were  busy.  In  the  courtyard 
there  was  a  crowd  of  people.  In  Maria  Kirilovna*s  dressing- 
room,  before  the  looking-glass,  a  lady,  surrounded  by  maid- 
servants, was  attiring  the  pale,  motionless  young  bride. 
Her  head  bent  languidly  beneath  the  weight  of  her  diamonds; 
she  started  slightly  when  a  careless  hand  pricked  her,  but 
she  remained  silent,  gazing  absently  into  the  mirror. 

"Aren't  you  nearly  finished?"  said  the  voice  of  Kirila 
Petrovitch  at  the  door. 

"In  a  minute!"  replied  the  lady.  "Maria  Kirilovna, 
get  up  and  look  at  yourself.     Is  everything  right  ?  " 

Maria  Kirilovna  rose,  but  made  no  reply.  The  door  was 

"  The  bride  is  ready,"  said  the  lady  to  Kirila  Petrovitch ; 
"order  the  carriage." 

"  With  God ! "  replied  Kirila  Petrovitch,  and  taking  a 
sacred  image  from  the  table,  "  Approach,  Masha,"  said  he, 
in  a  voice  of  emotion ;  "  I  bless  you  .  .  ." 

The  poor  girl  fell  at  his  feet  and  began  to  sob. 

"  Papa  .  .  .  papa  .  .  ."  she  said  through  her  tears,  and 
then  her  voice  failed  her. 

Kirila  Petrovitch  hastened  to  give  her  his  blessing.  She 
was  raised  up  and  almost  carried  into  the  carriage.  Her 
godmother  and  one  of  the  maidservants  got  in  with  her, 


and  they  drove  off  to  the  church.  There  the  bridegroom 
was  already  waiting  for  them.  He  came  forward  to  meet 
the  bride,  and  was  struck  by  her  pallor  and  her  strange  look. 
They  entered  the  cold  deserted  church  together,  and  the 
door  was  locked  behind  them.  The  priest  came  out  from 
the  altar,  and  the  ceremony  at  once  began. 

Maria  Kirilovna  saw  nothing,  heard  nothing;  she  had 
been  thinking  of  but  one  thing  the  whole  morning :  she  ex- 
pected Doubrovsky ;  nor  did  her  hope  abandon  her  for  one 
moment.  But  when  the  priest  turned  to  her  with  the 
usual  question,  she  started  and  felt  faint;  but  still  she 
hesitated,  still  she  expected.  The  priest,  without  waiting 
for  her  reply,  pronounced  the  irrevocable  words. 

The  ceremony  was  over.  She  felt  the  cold  kiss  of  her 
hated  husband ;  she  heard  the  flattering  congratulations  of 
those  present ;  and  yet  she  could  not  believe  that  her'  life 
was  bound  for  ever,  that  Doubrovsky  had  not  arrived  to 
deliver  her.  The  Prince  turned  to  her  with  tender  words — 
she  did  not  understand  them.  They  left  the  church;  in 
the  porch  was  a  crowd  of  peasants  from  Pokrovskoe.  Her 
glance  rapidly  scanned  them,  and  again  she  exhibited  her 
former  insensibility.  The  newly-married  couple  seated 
themselves  in  the  carriage  and  drove  off  to  Arbatova, 
whither  Kirila  Petrovitch  had  already  gone  on  before,  in 
order  to  welcome  the  wedded  pair  there. 

Alone  with  his  young  wife,  the  Prince  was  not  in  the 
least  piqued  by  her  cold  manner.  He  did  not  begin  to 
weary  her  with  amorous  protestations  and  ridiculous  en- 
thusiasm ;  his  words  were  simple  and  required  no  answer. 
In  this  way  they  travelled  about  ten  versts.  The  horses 
dashed  rapidly  along  the  uneven  country  roads,  and  the 
carriage  scarcely  shook  upon  its  English  springs.  Suddenly 
were  heard  cries  of  pursuit.  The  carriage  stopped,  and  a 
crowd  of  armed  men  surrounded  it.     A  man  in  a  half-mask 


opened  the  door  on  the  side  where  the  young  Princess  sat, 
and  said  to  her  : 

"You  are  free!    Alight." 

"What  does  this  mean?"  cried  the  Prince.  "Who  are 
you  that " 

"  It  is  Doubrovsky,"  replied  the  Princess.     • 

The  Prince,  without  losing  his  presence  of  mind,  drew 
from  his  side  pocket  a  travelling  pistol  and  fired  at  the 
masked  brigand.  The  Princess  shrieked,  and,  filled  with 
horror,  covered  her  face  with  both  her  hands.  Doubrovsky 
was  wounded  in  the  shoulder ;  the  blood  was  flowing.  The 
Prince,  without  losing  a  moment,  drew  another  pistol;  but 
he  was  not  allowed  time  to  fire ;  the  door  was  opened,  and 
several  strong  arms  dragged  him  out  of  the  carriage  and 
snatched  the  pistol  from  him.  Above  him  flashed  several 

"Do  not  touch  him  I"  cried  Doubrovsky,  and  his  terrible 
associates  drew  back. 

"  Your  are  free  ! "  continued  Doubrovsky,  turning  to  the 
pale  Princess. 

"  No  ! "  replied  she ;  "  it  is  too  late  !  I  am  married.  I 
am  the  wife  of  Prince  Vereisky." 

*'What  do  you  say?"  cried  Doubrovsky  in  despair. 
"  No !  you  are  not  his  wife.  You  were  forced,  you  could 
never  have  consented." 

"  I  have  consented,  I  have  taken  the  oath,"  she  answered 
with  firmness.  "The  Prince  is  my  husband;  give  orders 
for  him  to  be  set  at  liberty,  and  leave  me  with  him.  I  have 
not  deceived  you.  I  waited  for  you  till  the  last  moment 
.  .  .  but  now,  I  tell  you,  now,  it  is  too  late.     Let  us  g®." 

But  Doubrovsky  no  longer  heard  her.  The  pain  of  his 
wound,  and  the  violent  emotion  of  his  mind  had  deprived 
him  of  all  power  over  himself.  He  fell  against  the  wheel ; 
the  brigands  surrounded  him.     He  managed  to  say  a  few 


words  to  them.  They  placed  him  on  horseback;  two  of 
them  held  him  up,  a  third  took  the  horse  by  the  bridle,  and 
all  withdrew  from  the  spot,  leaving  the  carriage  in  the 
middle  of  the  road,  the  servants  bound,  the  horses  un- 
harnessed, but  without  carrying  anything  away  with  them, 
and  without  shedding  one  drop  of  blood  in  revenge  for  the 
blood  of  their  chief. 



IN  the  middle  of  a  dense  wood,  on  a  narrow  grass-plot, 
rose  a  small  earthwork,  consisting  of  a  rampart  and 
ditch,  behind  which  were  some  huts  and  tents.  Within  the 
inclosed  space,  a  crowd  of  persons  who,  by  their  varied 
garments  and  by  their  arms,  could  at  once  be  recognized  as 
brigands,  were  having  their  dinner,  seated  bareheaded 
around  a  large  cauldron.  On  the  rampart,  by  the  side  of  a 
small  cannon,  sat  a  sentinel,  with  his  legs  crossed  under 
him.  He  was  sewing  a  patch  upon  a  certain  part  of  his 
attire,  handling  his  needle  with  a  dexterity  that  bespoke  the 
experienced  tailor,  and  every  now  and  then  raising  his  head 
and  glancing  round  on  every  side. 

Although  a  certain  ladle  had  passed  from  hand  to  hand 
several  times,  a  strange  silence  reigned  among  this  crowd. 
The  brigands  finished  their  dinner ;  one  after  another  rose 
and  said  a  prayer  to  God ;  some  dispersed  among  the  huts, 
others  strolled  away  into  the  wood  or  lay  down  to  sleep, 
according  to  the  Russian  habit. 

The  sentinel  finished  his  work,  shook  his  garment,  gazed 
admiringly  at  the  patch,  stuck  the  needle  in  his  sleeve,  sat 
astride  the  cannon,  and  began  to  sing  a  melancholy  old 
song  with  all  the  power  of  his  lungs. 

At  that  moment  the  door  of  one  of  the  huts  opened,  and 
an  old  woman  in  a  white  cap,  neatly  and  even  pretentiously 
dressed,  appeared  upon  the  threshold, 

"Enough   of  that,    Stepka,"^   said   she   angrily.     "The 
*  Diminutive  of  Stepan  (Stephen). 

254  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

master  is  sleeping,  and  yet  you  must  make  that  frightful 
noise  ;  you  have  neither  conscience  nor  pity." 

"  I  beg  pardon,  Petrovna,"  replied  Stepka.  "  I  won't 
do  it  any  more.  Let  our  little  father  sleep  on  and  get 

The  old  woman  withdrew  into  the  hut,  and  Stepka  began 
to  pace  to  and  fro  upon  the  rampart. 

Within  the  hut,  from  which  the  old  woman  had  emerged, 
lay  the  wounded  Doubrovsky  upon  a  cold  bed  behind  a 
partition.  Before  him,  upon  a  small  table,  lay  his  pistols, 
and  a  sword  hung  near  his  head.  The  mud  hut  was  hung 
round  and  covered  with  rich  carpets.  In  the  corner  was  a 
lady's  silver  toilet  and  mirror.  Doubrovsky  held  in  his  hand 
an  open  book,  but  his  eyes  were  closed,  and  the  old  woman, 
peeping  at  him  from  behind  the  partition,  could  not  tell 
whether  he  was  asleep  or  only  thinking. 

Suddenly  Doubrovsky  started.  In  the  fort  there  was  a 
great  commotion,  and  Stepka  came  and  thrust  his  head  in 
through  the  window  of  the  hut. 

"  Father  Vladimir  Andreivitch  ! "  he  cried ;  "  our  men 
are  signalling — they  are  on  our  track  ! " 

Doubrovsky  leaped  from  his  bed,  seized  his  arms  and 
issued  from  the  hut.  The  brigands  were  noisily  crowding 
together  in  the  inclosure,  but  on  the  appearance  of  their 
chief  a  deep  silence  reigned. 

*'  Are  all  here?  "  asked  Doubrovsky. 

"  All  except  the  patrols,"  was  the  reply. 

"To  your  places  !"  cried  Doubrovsky,  and  the  brigands 
took  up  each  his  appointed  place. 

At  that  moment,  three  of  the  patrols  ran  up  to  the  gate 
of  the  fort.     Doubrovsky  went  to  meet  them. 

"What  is  it?"  he  asked. 

"The  soldiers  are  in  the  wood,"  was  the  reply;  *'they 
^re  surrounding  us," 


Doubrovsky  ordered  the  gate  to  be  locked,  and  then 
went  himself  to  examine  the  cannon.  In  the  wood  could 
be  heard  the  sound  of  many  voices,  every  moment  drawing 
nearer  and  nearer.  The  brigands  waited  in  silence.  Sud- 
denly three  or  four  soldiers  appeared  from  the  wood,  but 
immediately  fell  back  again,  firing  their  guns  as  a  signal  to 
their  comrades. 

"  Prepare  for  battle  ! "  cried  Doubrovsky.  There  was  a 
movement  among  the  brigands,  then  all  was  silent  again. 

Then  was  heard  the  noise  of  an  approaching  column ; 
arms  glittered  among  the  trees,  and  about  a  hundred  and 
fifty  soldiers  dashed  out  of  the  wood  and  rushed  with  a  wild 
shout  towards  the  rampart.  Doubrovsky  applied  the  match 
to  the  cannon;  the  shot  was  successful — one  soldier  had 
his  head  shot  off,  and  two  others  were  wounded.  The 
troops  were  thrown  into  confusion,  but  the  officer  in  com- 
mand rushed  forward,  the  soldiers  followed  him  and  jumped 
down  into  the  ditch.  The  brigands  fired  down  at  them 
with  muskets  arid  pistols,  and  then,  with  axes  in  their  hands, 
they  began  to  defend  the  rampart,  up  which  the  infuriated 
soldiers  were  now  climbing,  leaving  twenty  of  their  com- 
rades wounded  in  the  ditch  below.  A  hand  to  hand 
struggle  began.  The  soldiers  were  already  upon  the 
rampart,  the  brigands  were  beginning  to  give  way;  but 
Doubrovsky  advanced  towards  the  officer  in  command,  pre- 
sented his  pistol  at  his  breast,  and  fired.  The  officer  fell 
backwards  to  the  ground.  Several  soldiers  raised  him  in 
their  arms  and  hastened  to  carry  him  into  the  wood ;  the 
others,  having  lost  their  chief,  stopped  fighting.  The  em- 
boldened brigands  took  advantage  of  this  moment  of  hesi- 
tation, and  surging  forward,  hurled  their  assailants  back 
into  the  ditch.  The  besiegers  began  to  run ;  the  brigands 
with  fierce  yells  started  in  pursuit  of  them.  The  victory 
was  decisive.     Doubrovsky,  trusting  to  the  complete  con- 

256  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

fusion  of  the  enemy,  stopped  his  followers  and  shut  himself 
up  in  the  fortress,  doubled  the  sentinels,  forbade  anyone  to 
absent  himself,  and  ordered  the  wounded  to  be  collected. 

This  last  event  drew  the  serious  attention  of  the  govern- 
ment to  the  daring  exploits  of  Doubrovsky.  Information 
was  obtained  of  his  place  of  retreat,  and  a  detachment  of 
soldiers  was  sent  to  take  him,  dead  or  alive.  Several  of  his 
band  were  captured,  and  from  these  it  was  ascertained  that 
Doubrovsky  was  no  longer  among  them.  A  few  days  after 
the  battle  that  we  have  just  described,  he  collected  all  his 
followers  and  informed  them  that  it  was  his  intention  to 
leave  them  for  ever,  and  advised  them  to  change  their  mode 
of  life: 

"  You  have  become  rich  under  my  command.  Each  of 
you  has  a  passport  with  which  he  will  be  able  to  make  his 
way  safely  to  some  distant  province,  where  he  can  pass  the 
rest  of  his  Hfe  in  ease  and  honest  labour.  But  you  are  all 
rascals,  and  probably  do  not  wish  to  abandon  your  trade." 

After  this  speech  he  left  them,  taking  with  him  only  one 
of  his  followers.  Nobody  knew  what  became  of  him.  At 
first  the  truth  of  this  testimony  was  doubted,  for  the  devo- 
tion of  the  brigands  to  their  chief  was  well  known,  and  it  was 
supposed  that  they  had  concocted  the  story  to  secure  hiss 
safety ;  but  after  events  confirmed  their  statement.  The 
terrible  visits,  burnings,  and  robberies  ceased;  the  roads 
again  became  safe.  According  to  another  report,  Doubrovsky 
had  fled  ^o  some  foreign  country. 




THERE  was  a  card  party  at  the  rooms  of  Naroumoff 
of  the  Horse  Guards.  The  long  winter  night  passed 
away  imperceptibly,  and  it  was  five  o'clock  in  the  morning 
before  the  company  sat  down  to  supper.  Those  who  had 
won,  ate  with  a  good  appetite  ;  the  others  sat  staring  absently 
at  their  empty  plates.  When  the  champagne  appeared, 
however,  the  conversation  became  more  animated,  and  all 
took  a  part  in  it.^. 

"  And  how  (fid  you  fare,  Sourin  ?  "  asked  the  host. 

"  Oh,  I  lost,  as  usual.  I  must  confess  that  I  am  unlucky : 
I  play  mirandole,  I  always  keep  cool,  I  never  allow  any- 
thing to  put  me  out,  and  yet  I  always  lose  ! " 

"  And  you  did  not  once  allow  yourself  to  be  tempted  to 
back  the  red?  .  .  .     Your  firmness  astonishes  me." 

"  But  what  do  you  think  of  Hermann  ?  "  said  one  of  the 

guests,  pointing  to  a  young  Engineer  :  "  he  has  never  had  a 

card  in  his  hand  in  his  life,  he  has  never  in  his  life  laid  a 

wager,  and  yet  he  sits  here  till  five  o'clock  in  the  morning 

I  watching  our  play." 

"  Play  interests  me  very  much,"  said  Hermann  :  "  but  I 
am  not  in  the  position  to  sacrifice  the  necessary  in  the  hope 
of  winning  the  superfluous." 

I      "  Hermann  is  a  German :  he  is  economical — that  is  all ! " 
observed  Tomsky.     "  But  if  there  is  one  person  that  I  can- 


26o         POUSHKIN'S  PROSE  TALES. 

not  understand,  it  is  my  grandmother,  the  Countess  Anna 

"  How  so  ?  "  inquired  the  guests. 

"  I  cannot  understand,"  continued  Tomsky,  "  how  it  is 
that  my  grandaiother  does  not  punt." 

"  What  is  there  remarkable  about  an  old  lady  of  eighty 
not  punting?"  said  Naroumoff. 

"  Then  you  do  not  know  the  reason  why  ?  " 

"  No,  really ;  haven't  the  faintest  idea." 

"  Oh  !  then  listen.  You  must  know  that,  about  sixty  years 
ago,  my  grandmother  went  to  Paris,  where  she  created  quite 
a  sensation.  People  used  to  run  after  her  to  catch  a  glimpse 
of  the  '  Muscovite  Venus.'  Richelieu  made  love  to  her,  and 
my  grandmother  maintains  that  he  almost  blew  out  his 
brains  in  consequence  of  her  cruelty.  At  that  time  ladies 
used  to  play  at  faro.  On  one  occasion  at  the  Court,  she  lo3t 
a  very  considerable  sum  to  the  Duke  of  Orleans.  On 
returning  home,  my  grandmother  removed  the  patches  from 
her  face,  took  off  her  hoops,  informed  my  grandfather  of  her 
loss  at  the  gaming-table,  and  ordered  him  to  pay  the  money. 
My  deceased  grandfather,  as  far  as  I  remember,  was  a  sort 
of  house-steward  to  my  grandmother.  He  dreaded  her  like 
fire ;  but,  on  hearing  of  such  a  heavy  loss,  he  almost  went 
out  of  his  mind ;  he  calculated  the  various  sums  she  had 
lost,  and  pointed  out  to  her  that  in  six  months  she  had 
spent  half  a  miUion  of  francs,  that  neither  their  Moscow  nor 
Saratoff  estates  were  in  Paris,  and  finally  refused  point  blank 
to  pay  the  debt.  My  grandmother  gave  him  a  box  on  the 
ear  and  slept  by  herself  as  a  sign  of  her  displeasure;  The 
next  day  she  sent  for  her  husband,  hoping  that  this  domestic 
punishment  had  produced  an  effect  upon  him,  but  she  found 
him  inflexible.  For  the  first  time  in  her  life,  she  entered 
into  reasonings  and  explanations  with  him,  thinking  to  be 
able  to  convince  him  by  pointing  out  to  him  that  there  are 


debts  and  debts,  and  that  there  is  a  great  difference  between 
a  Prince  and  a  coachmaker.  But  it  was  all  in  vain,  my 
grandfather  still  remained  obdurate.  But  the  matter  did  not 
rest  there.  My  grandmother  did  not  know  what  to  do.  She 
had  shortly  before  become  acquainted  with  a  very  remark- 
able man.  You  have  heard  of  Count  St.  Germain,  about 
whom  so  many  marvellous  stories  are  told.  You  know  that 
he  represented  himself  as  the  Wandering  Jew,  as  the  dis- 
coverer of  the  elixir  of  life,  of  the  philosopher's  stone,  and  so 
forth.  Some  laughed  at  him  as  a  charlatan  ;  but  Casanova, 
in  his  memoirs,  says  that  he  was  a  spy.  But  be  that  as  it^ 
may,  St.  Germain,  in  spite  of  the  mystery  surrounding  him, 
was  a  very  fascinating  person,  and  was  much  sought  after  in 
the  best  circles  of  society.  Even  to  this  day  ray  grandmother 
retains  an  affectionate  recollection  of  him,  and  becomes 
quite  angry  if  anyone  speaks  disrespectfully  of  him.  My 
grandmother  knew  that  St.  Germain  had  large  sums  of 
money  at  his  disposal  She  resolved  to  have  recourse  to 
him,  and  she  wrote  a  letter  to  him  asking  him  to  come  to 
her  without  delay.  The  queer  old  man  immediately  waited 
upon  her  and  found  her  overwhelmed  with  grief.  She 
described  to  him  in  the  blackest  colours  the  barbarity  of  her 
husband,  and  ended  by  declaring  that  her  whole  hope 
depended  upon  his  friendship  and  amiability. 

"  St.  Germain  reflected. 

*^  *  I  could  advance  you  the  sum  you  want,'  said  he ;  *  but 
I  know  that  you  would  not  rest  easy  until  you  had  paid  me 
back,  and  I  should  not  hke  to  bring  fresh  troubles  upon 
you.  But  there  is  another  way  of  getting  out  of  your 
difficulty :  you  can  win  back  your  money.' 

"  *  But,  my  dear  Count,'  replied  my  grandmother,  *  I  tell 
you  that  I  haven't  any  money  left.' 

"  *  Money  is  not  necessary,'  replied  St.  Germain :  '  be 
pleased  to  listen  to  me,* 

262         POUSHKIN'S  PROSE  TALES. 

"  Then  he  revealed  to  her  a  secret,  for  which  each  of  us 
would  give  a  good  deal  .  .  ." 

The  young  officers  listened  with  increased  attention. 
Tomsky  lit  his  pipe,  puffed  away  for  a  moment  and  then 
continued : 

**  That  same  evening  my  grandmother  went  to  Versailles 
to  the^V^  de  la  reine.  The  Duke  of  Orleans  kept  the  bank ; 
my  grandmother  excused  herself  in  an  off-handed  manner 
for  not  having  yet  paid  her  debt,  by  inventing  some  little 
story,  and  then  began  to  play  against  him.  She  chose  three 
cards  and  played  them  one  after  the  other :  all  three  won 
sonika^  and  my  grandmother  recovered  every  farthing  that 
she  had  lost." 

"  Mere  chance ! "  said  one  of  the  guests. 

"  A  tale  ! "  observed  Hermann. 

**  Perhaps  they  were  marked  cards !  "  said  a  third. 

"  I  do  not  think  so,"  replied  Tomsky  gravely. 

"  What ! "  said  Naroumoff,  **  you  have  a  grandmother 
who  knows  how  to  hit  upon  three  lucky  cards  in  succession, 
and  you  have  never  yet  succeeded  in  getting  the  secret  of  it 
out  of  her  ?  " 

''  That's  the  deuce  of  it ! "  replied  Tomsky :  "  she  had 
four  sons,  one  of  whom  was  my  father ;  all  four  were  deter- 
mined gamblers,  and  yet  not  to  one  of  them  did  she  ever 
reveal  her  secret,  although  it  would  not  have  been  a  bad 
thing  either  for  them  or  for  me.»  But  this  is  what  I  Jieard 
from  my  uncle.  Count  Ivan  Hitch,  and  he  assured  me,  on 
his  honour,  that  it  was  true.  The  late  Chaplitsky — the  same 
who  died  in  poverty  after  having  squandered  millions — once 
lost,  in  his  youth,  about  three  hundred  thousand  roubles — 
to  Zoritch,  if  I  remember  rightly.  He  was  in  despair.  My 
grandmother,  who  was  always  very  severe  upon  the  extrava- 

^  Said  of  a  card  when  it  wins  or  loses  in  the  quickest  possible  time. 


gance  of  young  men,  took  pity,  however,  upon  Chaplitsky. 
She  gave  him  three  cards,  telling  him  to  play  them  one  after 
the  other,  at  the  same  time  exacting  from  him  a  solemn 
promise  that  he  would  never  play  at  cards  again  as  long  as 
he  lived.  Chaplitsky  then  went  to  his  victorious  opponent, 
and  they  began  a  fresh  game.  On  the  first  card  he  staked 
fifty  thousand  roubles  and  won  sonika ;  he  doubled  the 
stake  and  won  again,  till  at  last,  by  pursuing  the  same  tactics, 
he  won  back  more  than  he  had  lost  ... 

"  But  it  is  time  to  go  to  bed :  it  is  a  quarter  to  six 

And  indeed  it  was  already  beginning  to  dawn:  the 
young  men  emptied  their  glasses  and  then  took  leave  of  each 




THE  old  Countess  A was  seated  in  her  dressing- 
room  in  front  of  her  looking-glass.  Three  waiting 
maids  stood  around  her.  One  held  a  small  pot  of  rouge, 
another  a  box  of  hair-pins,  and  the  third  a  tall  cap  with 
bright  red  ribbons.  The  Countess  had  no  longer  the 
slightest  pretensions  to  beauty,  but  she  still  preserved  the 
habits  of  her  youth,  dressed  in  strict  accordance  with  the 
fashion  of  seventy  years  before,  and  made  as  long  and  as 
careful  a  toilette  as  she  would  have  done  sixty  years  pre- 
viously. Near  the  window,  at  an  embroidery  frame,  sat  a 
young  lady,  her  ward. 

"  Good  morning,  grandmamma,"  said  a  young  officer, 
entering  the  room.  "  Bonjour,  Mademoiselle  Lise.  Grand- 
mamma, I  want  to  ask  you  something." 

"What  is  it,  Paul?" 

"  I  want  you  to  let  me  introduce  one  of  my  friends 
to  you,  and  to  allow  me  to  bring  him  to  the  ball  on 

"  Bring  him  direct  to  the  ball  and  introduce  him  to  me 
there.     Were  you  at  B 's  yesterday  ?  " 

"  Yes ;  everything  went  off  very  pleasantly,  and  dancing 
was  kept  up  until  five  o'clock.  How  charming  Eletskaia 

"  But,  my  dear,  what  is  there  charming  about  her  ?  Isn't 
she  like  her  grandmother,  the  Princess  Daria  Petrovna? 
By  the  way,  she  must  be  very  old,  the  Princess  Daria 


**  How  do  you  mean,  old  ?  "  cried  Tomsky  thoughtlessly ; 
"she  died  seven  years  ago." 

The  young  lady  raised  her  head  and  made  a  sign  to  the 
young  officer.  He  then  remembered  that  the  old  Countess 
was  never  to  be  informed  of  the  death  of  any  of  her  con- 
temporaries, and  he  bit  his  lips.  But  the  old  Countess 
heard  the  news  with  the  greatest  indifference. 

"  Dead  ! "  said  she ;  "  and  I  did  not  know  it.  We  were 
appointed  maids  of  honour  at  the  same  time,  and  when  we 
were  presented  to  the  Empress.  .  .  ." 

And  the  Countess  for  the  hundredth  time  related  to  her 
grandson  one  of  her  anecdotes. 

"  Come,  Paul,"  said  she,  when  she  had  finished  her  story, 
"  help  me  to  get  up.     Lizanka,^  where  is  my  snuff-box  ?  " 

And  the  Countess  with  her  three  maids  went  behind  a 
screen  to  finish  her  toilette.  Tomsky  was  left  alone  with 
the  young  lady. 

"Who  is  the  gentleman  you  wish  to  introduce  to  the 
Countess  ?  "  masked  Lizaveta  Ivanovna  in  a  whisper. 

^*  Naroumoff.     Do  you  know  him  ?" 

"  No.     Is  he  a  soldier  or  a  civilian  ?  " 

"A  soldier." 

**  Is  he  in  the  Engineers  ?  *' 

"  No,  in  the  Cavalry.  What  made  you  think  that  he  was 
in  the  Engineers  ?  " 

The  young  lady  smiled,  but  made  no  reply. 

"  Paul,"  cried  the  Countess  from  behind  the  screen, 
"  send  me  some  new  novel,  only  pray  don't  let  it  be  one  of 
the  present  day  style." 

"  What  do  you  mean,  grandmother  ?  " 

*'  That  is,  a  novel,  in  which  the  hero  strangles  neither  his 
father  nor  his  mother,  and  in  which  there  are  no  drowned 
bodies.     I  have  a  great  horror  of  drowned  persons." 

^  Diminutive  of  Lizaveta  (Elizabeth). 

266         POUSHKIN*S  PROSE  TALES. 

"There  are  no  such  novels  nowadays.  Would  you  like  a 
Russian  one  ?  " 

"  Are  there  any  Russian  novels  ?  Send  me  one,  my  dear, 
pray  send  me  one  ! " 

"  Good-bye,  grandmother :  I  am  in  a  hurry.  .  .  .  Good- 
bye, Lizaveta  Ivanovna.  What  made  you  think  that  Narou- 
moff  was  in  the  Engineers?" 

And  Tomsky  left  the  boudoir. 

Lizaveta  Ivanovna  was  left  alone :  she  laid  aside  her 
work  and  began  to  look  out  of  the  window.  A  few  moments 
afterwards,  at  a  comer  house  on  the  other  side  of  the  street, 
a  young  officer  appeared.  A  deep  blush  covered  her  cheeks ; 
she  took  up  her  work  again  and  bent  her  head  down  over 
the  frame.  At  the  same  moment  the  Countess  returned 
completely  dressed. 

"Order  the  carriage,  Lizaveta,"  said  she;  "we  will  go 
out  for  a  drive." 

Lizaveta  arose  from  the  frame  and  began  to  arrange  her 

"What  is  the  matter  with  you,  my  child,  are  you  deaf?" 
cried  the  Countess.  "  Order  the  carriage  to  be  got  ready  at 

"I  will  do  so  this  moment,"  replied  the  young  lady, 
hastening  into  the  ante-room. 

A  servant  entered  and  gave  the  Countess  some  books 
from  Prince  Paul  Alexandrovitch. 

"Tell  him  that  I  am  much  obliged  to  him,"  said  the 
Countess.  "  Lizaveta !  Lizaveta !  where  are  you  running 

"  I  am  going  to  dress." 

"There  is  plenty  of  time,  my  dear.  Sit  down  here, 
Open  the  first  volume  and  read  to  me  aloud." 

Her  companion  took  the  book  and  read  a  few  lines. 

"  Louder,"  said  the  Countess.     "  What  is  the  matter  with 


you,  my  child  ?     Have  you  lost  your  voice  ?    Wait — give 
me  that  footstool — a  little  nearer — that  will  do  ! " 

Lizaveta  read  two  more  pages.     The  Countess  yawned. 

'*  Put  the  book  down,"  said  she  :  "  what  a  lot  of  nonsense  ! 
Send  it  back  to  Prince  Paul  with  my  thanks.  .  .  .  But  where 
is  the  carriage  ?  " 

"  The  carriage  is  ready,"  said  Lizaveta,  looking  out  into 
the  street. 

"  How  is  it  that  you  are  not  dressed  ?  "  said  the  Countess  : 
**  I  must  always  wait  for  you.     It  is  intolerable,  my  dear  ! " 

Liza  hastened  to  her  room.  She  had  not  been  there  two 
minutes,  before  the  Countess  began  to  ring  with  all  her 
might.  The  three  waiting-maids  came  running  in  at  one 
door  and  the  valet  at  another. 

''How  is  it  that  you  cannot  hear  me  when  I  ring  for 
you  ?  "  said  the  Countess.  "  Tell  Lizaveta  Ivanovna  that  I 
am  waiting  for  her." 

Lizaveta  returned  with  her  hat  and  cloak  on. 

"  At  last  yO'u  are  here  ! "  said  the  Countess.  *'  But  why 
such  an  elaborate  toilette?  Whom  do  you  intend  to 
captivate?  What  sort  of  weather  is  it?  It  seems  rather 

"  No,  Your  Ladyship,  it  is  very  calm,"  replied  the  valet. 

"You  never  think  of  what  you  are  talking  about.  Open 
the  window.  So  it  is  :  windy  and  bitterly  cold.  Unharness 
the  horses.  Lizaveta,  we  won't  go  out — there  was  no  need 
for  you  to  deck  yourself  like  that." 

"  What  a  life  is  mine ! "  thought  Lizaveta  Ivanovna. 

And,  in  truth,  Lizaveta  Ivanovna  was  a  very  unfortunate 
creature.  "  The  bread  of  the  stranger  is  bitter,"  says  Dante, 
**and  his  staircase  hard  to  climb."  But  who  can  know 
what  the  bitterness  of  dependence  is  so  well  as  the  poor 

companion  of  an  old  lady  of  quality  ?    The  Countess  A ■ 

had  by  no  means  a  bad  heart,  but  she  was  capricious,  like  a 

268      poushkin's  prose  tales. 

woman  who  had  been  spoilt  by  the  world,  as  well  as  being 
avaricious  and  egotistical,  like  all  old  people  who  have  seen 
their  best  days,  and  whose  thoughts  are  with  the  past  and 
not  the  present.  She  participated  in  all  the  vanities  of  the 
great  world,  went  to  balls,  where  she  sat  in  a  corner,  painted 
and  dressed  in  old-fashioned  style,  like  a  deformed  but  in- 
dispensable ornament  of  the  ball-room ;  all  the  guests  on 
entering  approached  her  and  made  a  profound  bow,  as  if  in 
accordance  with  a  set  ceremony,  but  after  that  nobody  took 
any  further  notice  of  her.  She  received  the  whole  town  at 
her  house,  and  observed  the  strictest  etiquette,  although  she 
could  no  longer  recognize  the  faces  of  people.  Her  nu- 
merous domestics,  growing  fat  and  old  in  her  ante-chamber 
and  servants'  hall,  did  just  as  they  liked,  and  vied  with  each 
other  in  robbing  the  aged  Countess  in  the  most  bare-faced 
manner.  Lizaveta  Ivanovna  was  the  martyr  of  the  house- 
hold. She  made  tea,  and  was  reproached  with  using  too 
much  sugar;  she  read  novels  aloud  to  the  Countess,  and 
the  faults  of  the  author  were  visited  upon  her  head ;  she 
accompanied  the  Countess  in  her  walks,  and  was  held 
answerable  for  the  weather  or  the  state  of  the  pavement. 
A  salary  was  attached  to  the  post,  but  she  very  rarely 
received  it,  although  she  was  expected  to  dress  like  every- 
body else,  that  is  to  say,  like  very  few  indeed.  In  society 
she  played  the  most  pitiable  role.  Everybody  knew  her, 
and  nobody  paid  her  any  attention.  At  balls  she  danced 
only  when  a  partner  was  wanted,  and  ladies  would  only  take 
hold  of  her  arm  when  it  was  necessary  to  lead  her  out  of 
the  room  to  attend  to  their  dresses.  She  was  very  self- 
conscious,  and  felt  her  position  keenly,  and  she  looked  about 
her  with  impatience  for  a  deliverer  to  come  to  her  rescue ; 
but  the  young  men,  calculating  in  their  gi44«Tess,  honoured 
her  with  but  very  little  attention,  although  Lizaveta  Ivanovna 
was  a  hundred  times  prettier  than  the  bare-faced  and  cold- 


hearted  marriageable  girls  around  whom  they  hovered. 
Many  a  time  did  she  quietly  slink  away  from  the  glittering 
but  wearisome  drawing-room,  to  go  and  cry  in  her  own  poor 
little  room,  in  which  stood  a  screen,  a  chest  of  drawers,  a 
looking-glass  and  a  painted  bedstead,  and  where  a  tallow 
candle  burnt  feebly  in  a  copper  candle-stick. 

One  morning — this  was  about  two  days  after  the  evening 
party  described  at  the  beginning  of  this  story,  and  a  week 
previous  to  the  scene  at  which  we  have  just  assisted — 
Lizaveta  Ivanovna  was  seated  near  the  window  at  her 
embroidery  frame,  when,  happening  to  look  out  into  the 
street,  she  caught  sight  of  a  young  Engineer  officer,  standing 
motionless  with  his  eyes  fixed  upon  her  window.  She 
lowered  her  head  and  went  on  again  with  her  work.  About 
five  minutes  afterwards  she  looked  out  again — the  young 
officer  was  still  standing  in  the  same  place.  Not  being  in 
the  habit  of  coquetting  with  passing  officers,  she  did  not 
continue  to  gaze  out  into  the  street,  but  went  on  sewing  for 
a  couple  of  hours,  without  raising  her  head.  Dinner  was 
announced.  She  rose  up  and  began  to  put  her  embroidery 
away,  but  glancing  casually  out  of  the  window,  she  perceived 
the  officer  again.  This  seemed  to  her  very  strange.  After 
dinner  she  went  to  the  window  with  a  certain  feeling  of 
uneasiness,  but  the  officer  was  no  longer  there — and  she 
thought  no  more  about  him. 

A  couple  of  days  afterwards,  just  as  she  was  stepping  into 
the  carriage  with  the  Countess,  she  saw  him  again.  He  was 
standing  close  behind  the  door,  with  his  face  half-concealed 
by  his  fur  collar,  but  his  dark  eyes  sparkled  beneath  his  cap. 
Lizaveta  felt  alarmed,  though  she  knew  not  why,  and  she 
trembled  as  she  seated  herself  in  the  carriage. 

On  returning  home,  she  hastened  to  the  window — 
the  officer  was  standing  in  his  accustomed  place,  with 
his.  eyes    fixed   upon    Uer.      She    drew   back,   a   prey   to 

270  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

curiosity  and  agitated  by  a  feeling  which  was  quite  new  to 

From  that  time  forward  not  a  day  passed  without  the 
young  officer  making  his  appearance  under  the  window 
at  the  customary  hour,  and  between  him  and  her  there  was 
estabUshed  a  sort  of  mute  acquaintance.  Sitting  in  her 
place  at  work,  she  used  to  feel  his  approach ;  and  raising  her 
head,  she  would  look  at  him  longer  and  longer  each  day. 
The  young  man  seemed  to  be  very  grateful  to  her :  she  saw 
with  the  sharp  eye  of  youth,  how  a  sudden  flush  covered  his 
pale  cheeks  each  time  that  their  glances  met.  After  about  a 
week  she  commenced  to  smile  at  him.  .  .  . 

When  Tomsky  asked  permission  of  his  grandmother  the 
Countess  to  present  one  of  his  friends  to  her,  the  young 
girl's  heart  beat  violently.  But  hearing  that  Naroumoff  was 
not  an  Engineer,  she  regretted  that  by  her  thoughtless 
question,  she  had  betrayed  her  secret  to  the  volatile 

Hermann  was  the  son  of  a  German  who  had  become 
a  naturalized  Russian,  and  from  whom  he  had  inherited 
a  small  capital.  Being  firmly  convinced  of  the  necessity  of 
preserving  his  independence,  Hermann  did  not  touch  his 
private  income,  but  lived  on  his  pay,  without  allowing  him- 
self the  slightest  luxury.  Moreover,  he  was  reserved  and 
ambitious,  and  his  companions  rarely  had  an  opportunity  of 
making  merry  at  the  expense  of  his  extreme  parsimony.  He 
had  strong  passions  and  an  ardent  imagination,  but  his  firm- 
ness of  disposition  preserved  him  from  the  ordinary  errors  of 
young  men.  Thus,  though  a  gamester  at  heart,  he  never 
touched  a  card,  for  he  considered  his  position  did  not  allow 
him — as  he  said — "to  risk  the  necessary  in  the  hope  of 
winning  the  superfluous,"  yet  he  would  sit  for  nights  together 
at  the  card  table  and  follow  with  feverish  anxiety  the  different 
turns  of  the  game. 


The  story  of  the  three  cards  had  produced  a  powerful  impres- 
sion upon  his  imagination,  and  all  night  long  he  could  think 
of  nothing  else  "  If,"  he  thought  to  himself  the  following 
evening,  as  he  walked  along  the  streets  of  St.  Petersburg, 
"  if  the  old  Countess  would  but  reveal  her  secret  to  me  !  if 
she  would  only  tell  me  the  names  of  the  three  winning  cards. 
Why  should  I  not  try  my  fortune  ?  I  must  get  introduced  to 
her  and  win  her  favour — become  her  lover.  .  .  .  But  all  that 
will  take  time,  and  she  is  eighty- seven  years  old  :  she  might 
be  dead  in  a  week,  in  a  couple  of  days  even  !  .  .  .  But  the 
story  itself:  can  it  really  be  true?  ...  No !  Economy, 
temperance  and  industry  :  those  are  my  three  winning  cards ; 
by  means  of  them  I  shall  be  able  to  double  my  capital — in- 
crease it  sevenfold,  and  procure  for  myself  ease  and  inde- 

Musing  in  this  manner,  he  walked  on  until  he  found  him- 
self in  one  of  the  principal  streets  of  St.  Petersburg,  in  front 
of  a  house  of  antiquated  architecture.  The  street  was  blocked 
with  equipages ;  carriages  one  after  the  other  drew  up  in  front 
of  the  brilliantly  illuminated  doorway.  At  one  moment  there 
stepped  out  on  to  the  pavement  the  well-shaped  little  foot  of 
some  young  beauty,  at  another  the  heavy  boot  of  a  cavalry 
officer,  and  then  the  silk  stockijags  and  shoes  of  a  member 
of  the  diplomatic  world.  Furs  and  cloaks  passed  in  rapid 
succession  before  the  gigantic  porter  at  the  entrance. 

Hermann  stopped.  "  Who's  house  is  this  ?"  he  asked  of 
the  watchman  at  the  corner. 

"  The  Countess  A 's,"  replied  the  watchman. 

Hermann  started.  The  strange  story  of  the  three  cards 
again  presented  itself  to  his  imagination.  He  began  walking 
up  and  down  before  the  house,  thinking  of  its  owner  and  her 
strange  secret.  Returning  late  to  his  modest  lodging,  he 
could  not  go  to  sleep  for  a  long  time,  and  when  at  last 
he  did  doze  off,  he  could  dream  of  nothing  but  cards,  green 


tables,  piles  of  banknotes  and  heaps  of  ducats.  He  played 
one  card  after  the  other,  winning  uninterruptedly,  and  then 
he  gathered  up  the  gold  and  filled  his  pockets  with  the  notes. 
When  he  woke  up  late  the  next  morning,  he  sighed  over  the 
loss  of  his  imaginary  wealth,  and  then  sallying  out  into  the 
town,  he  found  himself  once  more  in  front  of  the  Countess's 
residence.  Some  unknown  power  seemed  to  have  attracted 
him  thither.  He  stopped  and  looked  up  at  the  windowSo 
At  one  of  these  he  saw  a  head  with  luxuriant  black  hair, 
which  was  bent  down  probably  over  some  book  or  an 
embroidery  frame.  The  head  was  raised.  Hermann  saw 
a  fresh  complexion  and  a  pair  of  dark  eyes.  That  moment 
decided  his  fate. 



LIZAVETA  IVANOVNAhad  scarcely  taken  off  her  hat 
and  cloak,  when  the  Countess  sent  for  her  and  again 
ordered  her  to  get  the  carriage  ready.  The  vehicle  drew  up 
before  the  door,  and  they  prepared  to  take  their  seats.  Just 
at  the  moment  when  two  footmen  were  assisting  the  old  lady 
to  enter  the  carriage,  Lizaveta  saw  her  Engineer  standing 
close  beside  the  wheel ;  he  grasped  her  hand  ;  alarm  caused 
her  to  lose  her  presence  of  mind,  and  the  young  man 
disappeared — but  not  before  he  had  left  a  letter  between 
her  fingers.  She  concealed  it  in  her  glove,  and  during 
the  whole  of  the  drive  she  neither  saw  nor  heard  anything. 
It  was  the  cusfom  of  the  Countess,  when  out  for  an  airing  in 
her  carriage,  to  be  constantly  asking  such  questions  as: 
"Who  was  that  person  that  met  us  just  now?  What  is  the 
name  of  this  bridge  ?  What  is  written  on  that  signboard  ?" 
On  this  occasion,  however,  Lizaveta  returned  such  vague 
and  absurd  answers,  that  the  Countess  became  angry  with 

"  What  is  the  matter  with  you,  my  dear  ?  "  she  exclaimed. 
"  Have  you  taken  leave  of  your  senses,  or  what  is  it  ?  Do 
you  not  hear  me  or  understand  what  I  say  ?  .  .  .  .  Heaven 
be  thanked,  I  am  still  in  my  right  mind  and  speak  plainly 
enough  !" 

Lizaveta  Ivanovna  did  not  hear  her.  On  returning  home 
she  ran  to  her  room,  and  drew  the  letter  out  of  her  glove:  it 
was  not  sealed.  Lizaveta  read  it.  The  letter  contained  a 
declaration  of  love ;  it  was  tender,  respectful,  and  copied 


word  for  word  from  a  German  novel.  But  Lizaveta  did  not 
know  anything  of  the  German  language,  and  she  was  quite 

For  all  that,  the  letter  caused  her  to  feel  exceedingly  un- 
easy. For  the  first  time  in  her  life  she  was  entering  into 
secret  and  confidential  relations  with  a  young  man.  His 
boldness  alarmed  her.  She  reproached  herself  for  her  im- 
prudent behaviour,  and  knew  not  what  to  do.  Should  she 
cease  to  sit  at  the  window  and,  by  assuming  an  appearance  of 
indifference  towards  him,  put  a  check  upon  the  young  officer's 
desire  for  further  acquaintance  with  her?  Should  she  send 
his  letter  back  to  him,  or  should  she  answer  him  in  a  cold 
and  decided  manner?  There  was  nobody  to  whom  she 
could  turn  in  her  perplexity,  for  she  had  neither  female 
friend  nor  adviser.  ...  At  length  she  resolved  to  reply  to 

She  sat  down  at  her  little  writing-table,  took  pen  and 
paper,  and  began  to  think.  Several  times  she  began  her 
letter,  and  then  tore  it  up :  the  way  she  had  expressed  her- 
self seemed  to  her  either  too  inviting  or  too  cold  and 
decisive.  At  last  she  succeeded  in  writing  a  few  lines  with 
which  she  felt  satisfied. 

"  I  am  convinced,"  she  wrote,  "  that  your  intentions  are 
honourable,  and  that  you  do  not  wish  to  offend  me  by  any 
imprudent  behaviour,  but  our  acquaintance  must  not  begin 
in  such  a  manner.  I  return  you  your  letter,  and  I  hope 
that  I  shall  never  have  any  cause  to  complain  of  this  un- 
deserved slight." 

The  next  day,  as  soon  as  Hermann  made  his  appearance, 
Lizaveta  rose  from  her  embroidery,  went  into  the  drawing- 
room,  opened  the  ventilator  and  threw  the  letter  into  the 
street,  trusting  that  the  young  officer  would  have  the  percep- 
tion to  pick  it  up. 

Hermann  hastened  forward,  picked  it  up  and  then  repaired 


to  a  confectioner's  shop.  Breaking  the  seal  of  the  envelope, 
he  found  inside  it  his  own  letter  and  Lizaveta's  reply.  He 
had  expected  this,  and  he  returned  home,  his  mind  deeply 
occupied  with  his  intrigue. 

Three  days  afterwards,  a  bright-eyed  young  girl  from  a 
milliner's  establishment  brought  Lizaveta  a  letter.  Lizaveta 
opened  it  with  great  uneasiness,  fearing  that  it  was  a  demand 
for  money,  when  suddenly  she  recognized  Hermann's  hand- 

"You  have  made  a  mistake,  my  dear,"  said  she:  "this 
letter  is  not  for  me." 

"Oh,  yes,  it  is  for  you,"  replied  the  girl,  smiling  very 
knowingly.     "  Have  the  goodness  to  read  it." 

Lizaveta  glanced  at  the  letter.  Hermann  requested  an 

"  It  cannot  be,"  she  cried,  alarmed  at  the  audacious 
request,  and  the  manner  in  which  it  was  made.  "This 
letter  is  certainly  not  for  me." 

And  she  tore  it  into  fragments. 

"  If  the  letter  was  not  for  you,  why  have  you  torn  it  up  ?  * 
said  the  girl.  "  I  should  have  given  it  back  to  the  person 
who  sent  it." 

"  Be  good  enough,  my  dear,"  said  Lizaveta,  disconcerted 
by  this  remark,  "  not  to  bring  me  any  more  letters  for  the 
future,  and  tell  the  person  who  sent  you  that  he  ought  to  be 
ashamed.  ..." 

But  Hermann  was  not  the  man  to  be  thus  put  off.  Every 
day  Lizaveta  received  from  him  a  letter,  sent  now  in  this 
way,  now  in  that.  They  were  no  longer  translated  from  the 
German.  Hermann  wrote  them  under  the  inspiration  of 
passion,  and  spoke  in  his  own  language,  and  they  bore  full 
testimony  to  the  inflexibility  of  his  desire  and  the  disordered 
condition  of  his  uncontrollable  imagination.  Lizaveta  no 
longer  thought  of  sending  them  back  to  him  :  she  became 

2/6  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

intoxicated  with  them  and  began  to  reply  to  them,  and  little 
by  little  her  answers  became  longer  and  more  affectionate. 
At  last  she  threw  out  of  the  window  to  him  the  following 
letter : 

**  This  evening  there  is  going  to  be  a  ball  at  the  Embassy. 
The  Countess  will  be  there.  We  shall  remain  until  two 
o'clock.  You  have  now  an  opportunity  of  seeing  me  alone. 
As  soon  as  the  Countess  is  gone,  the  servants  will  very  pro- 
bably go  out,  and  there  will  be  nobody  left  but  the  Swiss, 
but  he  usually  goes  to  sleep  ih  his  lodge.  Come  about  half- 
past  eleven.  Walk  straight  upstairs.  If  you  meet  anybody 
in  the  ante-room,  ask  if  the  Countess  is  at  home.  You  will 
be  told  *  No,'  in  which  case  there  will  be  nothing  left  for  you 
to  do  but  to  go  away  again.  But  it  is  most  probable  that 
you  will  meet  nobody.  The  maidservants  will  all  be 
together  in  one  room.  On  leaving  the  ante-room,  turn  to 
the  left,  and  walk  straight  on  until  you  reach  the  Countess's 
bedroom.  In  the  bedroom,  behind  a  screen,  you  will  find 
two  doors :  the  one  on  the  right  leads  to  a  cabinet,  which 
the  Countess  never  enters ;  the  one  on  the  left  leads  to  a 
corridor,  at  the  end  of  which  is  a  little  winding  staircase ; 
this  leads  to  my  room." 

Hermann  trembled  like  a  tiger,  as  he  waited  for  the 
appointed  time  to  arrive.  At  ten  o'clock  in  the  evening  he 
was  already  in  front  of  the  Countess's  house.  The  weather 
was  terrible ;  the  wind  blew  with  great  violence ;  the  sleety 
snow  fell  in  large  flakes ;  the  lamps  emitted  a  feeble  light, 
the  streets  were  deserted ;  from  time  to  time  a  sledge,  drawn 
by  a  sorry-looking  hack,  passed  by,  on  the  look-out  for  a 
belated  passenger.  Hermann  was  enveloped  in  a  thick  over- 
coat, and  felt  neither  wind  nor  snow. 

At  last  the  Countess's  carriage  drew  up.  Hermann  saw 
two  footmen  carry  out  in  their  arms  the  bent  form  of  the  old 
lady,  wrapped  in  sable  fur,  and  immediately  behind  her,  cla< 


in  a  warm  mantle,  and  with  her  head  ornamented  with  a 
wreath  of  fresh  flowers,  followed  Lizaveta.  The  door  was 
closed.  The  carriage  rolled  away  heavily  through  the  yield- 
ing snow.  The  porter  shut  the  street-door;  the  windows 
became  dark. 

Hermann  began  walking  up  and  down  near  the  deserted 
house ;  at  length  he  stopped  under  a  lamp,  and  glanced  at 
his  watch  :  it  was  twenty  minutes  past  eleven.  He  remained 
standing  under  the  lamp,  his  eyes  fixed  upon  the  watch, 
impatiently  waiting  for  the  remaining  minutes  to  pass.  At 
half-past  eleven  precisely,  Hermann  ascended  the  steps  of 
the  house,  and  made  his  way  into  the  brightly-illuminated 
vestibule.  The  porter  was  not  there.  Hermann  hastily 
ascended  the  staircase,  opened  the  door  of  the  ante-room 
and  saw  a  footman  sitting  asleep  in  an  antique  chair  by  the 
side  of  a  lamp.  With  a  light  firm  step  Hermann  passed  by 
him.  The  drawing-room  and  dining-room  were  in  darkness, 
but  a  feeble  reflection  penetrated  thither  from  the  lamp  in 
the  ante-roon\^ 

Hermann  reached  the  Countess's  bedroom.  Before  a 
shrine,  which  was  full  of  old  images,  a  golden  lamp  was 
burning.  Faded  stufled  chairs  and  divans  with  soft  cushions 
stood  in  melancholy  symmetry  around  the  room,  the  walls 
of  which  were  hung  with  China  silk.  On  one  side  of  the 
room  hung  two  portraits  painted  in  Paris  by  Madame 
Lebrun.  One  of  these  represented  a  stout,  red-faced  man 
of  about  forty  years  of  age  in  a  bright-green  uniform  and 
with  a  star  upon  his  breast;  the  other — a  beautiful  young 
woman,  with  an  aquiline  nose,  forehead  curls  and  a  rose  in 
lier  powdered  hair.  In  the  corners  stood  porcelain  shepherds 
and  shepherdesses,  dining-room  clocks  from  the  workshop 
of  the  celebrated  Lefroy,  bandboxes,  roulettes,  fans  and  the 
various  playthings  for  the  amusement  of  ladies  that  were  in 

278         POUSHKIN'S  PROSE  TALES. 

vogue  at  the  end  of  the  last  century,  when  Montgolfier's 
balloons  and  Mesmer's  magnetism  were  the  rage.  Hermann 
stepped  behind  the  screen.  At  the  back  of  it  stood  a  little 
iron  bedstead ;  on  the  right  was  the  door  which  led  to  the 
cabinet ;  on  the  left — the  other  which  led  to  the  corridor. 
He  opened  the  latter,  and  saw  the  little  winding  staircase 
which  led  to  the  room  of  the  poor  companion.  .  .  .  But  he 
retraced  his  steps  and  entered  the  dark  cabinet. 

The  time  passed  slowly.  All  was  still.  The  clock  in  the 
drawing-room  struck  twelve;  the  strokes  echoed  through 
the  room  one  after  the  other,  and  everything  was  quiet 
again.  Hermann  stood  leaning  against  the  cold  stove.  He 
was  calm;  his  heart  beat  regularly,  like  that  of  a  man 
resolved  upon  a  dangerous  but  inevitable  undertaking. 
One  o'clock  in  the  morning  struck;  then, two;  and  he 
heard  the  distant  noise  of  carriage-wheels.  An  involuntary 
agitation  took  possession  of  him.  The  carriage  drew  near 
and  stopped.  He  heard  the  sound  of  the  carriage-steps 
being  let  down.  All  was  bustle  within  the  house.  The- 
servants  were  running  hither  and  thither,  there  was  a  con- 
fusion of  voices,  and  the  rooms  were  lit  up.  Three  anti- 
quated chamber-maids  entered  the  bedroom,  and  they  were 
shortly  afterwards  followed  by  the  Countess  who,  more  dead 
than  alive,  sank  into  a  Voltaire  armchair.  Hermann  peeped 
through  a  chink.  Lizaveta  Ivanovna  passed  close  by  him, 
and  he  heard  her  hurried  steps  as  she  hastened  up  the  Uttle 
spiral  staircase.  For  a  moment  his  heart  way  assailed  by 
something  like  a  pricking  of  conscience,  but  the  emotion 
was  only  transitory,  and  his  heart  became  petrified  as  before. 

The  Countess  began  to  undress  before  her  looking-glass. 
Her  rose-bedecked  cap  was  taken  off,  and  then  her  powdered 
wig  was  removed  from  off  her  white  and  closely-cut  hair. 
Hairpins  fell  in  showers  around  her.  Her  yellow  satin  dress, 
brocaded  with  silver,  fell  down  at  her  swollen  feet 

THE   QUEEN   OF   SPADES.  2/9 

Hermann  was  a  witness  of  the  repugnant  mysteries  of  her 
toilette;  at  last  the  Countess  was  in  her  night-cap  and 
(hessing-gown,  and  in  this  costume,  more  suitable  to  her 
age,  she  appeared  less  hideous  and  deformed. 

Like  all  old  people  in  general,  the  Countess  suffered  from 
sleeplessness.  Having  undressed,  she  seated  herself  at  the 
window  in  a  Voltaire  armchair  and  dismissed  her  maids. 
The  candles  were  taken  away,  and  once  more  the  room  was 
left  with  only  one  lamp  burning  in  it.  The  Countess  sat 
there  looking  quite  yellow,  mumbhng  with  her  flaccid  lips 
and  swaying  to  and  fro.  Her  dull  eyes  expressed  complete 
vacancy  of  mind,  and,  looking  at  her,  one  would  have  thought 
that  the  rocking  of  her  body  was  not  a  voluntary  action  of 
her  own,  but  was  produced  by  the  action  of  some  concealed 
galvanic  mechanism. 

Suddenly  the  death-like  face  assumed  an  inexplicable 
expression.'  The  lips  ceased  to  tremble,  the  eyes  be- 
came animated :  before  the  Countess  stood  an  unknown 

"Do  not  be  alarmed,  for  Heaven's  sake,  do  not  be 
alarmed  ! "  said  he  in  a  low  but  distinct  voice.  "  I  have  no 
intention  of  doing  you  any  harm,  I  have  only  come  to  ask  a 
favour  of  you." 

The  old  woman  looked  at  him  in  silence,  as  if  she  had 

iOt  heard  what  he  had  said.     Hermann  thought  that  she 

as  deaf,  and,  bending  down  towards  her  ear,  he  repeated 

hat  he  had  said.     The  aged  Countess  remained  silent  as 


"You  can  insure  the  happiness  of  my  life"  continued 
Hermann,  "  and  it  will  cost  you  nothing.  I  know  that  you 
can  name  three  cards  in  order " 

Hermann  stopped.  The  Countess  appeared  now  to 
understand  what  he  wanted ;  she  seemed  as  if  seeking  for 
words  to  reply. 

28o      poushkin's  prose  tales. 

"  It  was  a  joke,"  she  replied  at  last :  "  I  assure  you  it  was 
only  a  joke." 

"  There  is  no  joking  about  the  matter,"  replied  Hermann 
angrily.    "  Remember  Chaplitsky,  whom  you  helped  to  win." 

The  Countess  became  visibly  uneasy.  Her  features  ex- 
pressed strong  emotion,  but  they  quickly  resumed  their 
former  immobility. 

*'Can  you  not  name  me  these  three  winning  cards?" 
continued  Hermann. 

The  Countess  remained  silent ;  Hermann  continued : 

"  For  whom  are  you  preserving  your  secret  ?  For  your 
grandsons  ?  They  are  rich  enough  without  it ;  they  do  not 
know  the  worth  of  money.  Your  cards  would  be  of  no  use  to 
a  spendthrift.  He  who  cannot  preserve  his  paternal  inheri- 
tance, will  die  in  want,  even  though  he  had  a  demon  at  his 
service.  I  am  not  a  man  of  that  sort ;  I  know  the  value  of 
money.  Your  three  cards  will  not  be  thrown  away  upon 
me.     Come!"  .  .  . 

He  paused  and  tremblingly  awaited  her  reply.  The 
Countess  remained  silent ;  Hermann  fell  upon  his  knees. 

"  If  your  heart  has  ever  known  the  feeling  of  love,"  said 
he,  "  if  you  remember  its  rapture,  if  you  have  ever  smiled  at 
the  cry  of  your  new-born  child,  if  any  human  feeling  has 
ever  entered  into  your  breast,  I  entreat  you  by  the  feelings 
of  a  wife,  a  lover,  a  mother,  by  all  that  is  most  sacred  in 
life,  not  to  reject  my  prayer.  Reveal  to  me  your  secret. 
Of  what  use  is  it  to  you  ?  .  .  .  May  be  it  is  connected  with 
some  terrible  sin,  with  the  loss  of  eternal  salvation,  with 
some  bargain  with  the  devil.  .  .  .  Reflect, — you  are  old; 
you  have  not  long  to  live — I  am  ready  to  take  your  sins 
upon  my  soul.  Only  reveal  to  me  your  secret.  Remember 
that  the  happiness  of  a  man  is  in  your  hands,  that  not  only 
I,  but  my  children,  and  grandchildren  will  bless  your  memory 
and  reverence  you  as  a  saint.  ..." 

THE  QUEEN   OF   SPADES.  28 1 

The  old  Countess  answered  not  a  word. 

Hermann  rose  to  his  feet. 

"  You  old  hag  1 "  he  exclaimed,  grinding  his  teeth,  "  then 
I  will  make  you  answer  ! " 

With  these  words  he  drew  a  pistol  from  his  pocket. 

At  the  sight  of  the  pistol,  the  Countess  for  the  second 
time  exhibited  strong  emotion.  She  shook  her  head  and 
raised  her  hands  as  if  to  protect  herself  from  the  shot  .  .  . 
then  she  fell  backwards  and  remained  motionless. 

"  Come,  an  end  to  this  childish  nonsense  ! "  said  Hermann, 
taking  hold  of  her  hand.  "I  ask  you  for  the  last  time: 
will  you  tell  me  the  names  of  your  three  cards,  or  will  you 

The  Countess  made  no  reply.  Hermann  perceived  that 
Bhe  was  dead ! 




LIZAVETA  IVANOVNA  was  sitting  in  her  room,  still 
in  her  ball  dress,  lost  in  deep  thought.  On  returning 
home,  she  had  hastily  dismissed  the  chambermaid  who  very 
reluctantly  came  forward  to  assist  her,  saying  that  she  would 
undress  herself,  and  with  a  trembling  heart  had  gone  up  to 
her  own  room,  expecting  to  find  Hermann  there,  but  yet 
hoping  not  to  find  him.  At  the  first  glance  she  convinced 
herself  that  he  was  not  there,  and  she  thanked  her  fate  for 
having  prevented  him  keeping  the  appointment.  She  sat 
down  without  undressing,  and  began  to  recall  to  mind  all 
the  circumstances  which  in  so  short  a  time  had  carried  her 
so  far.  It  was  not  three  weeks  since  the  time  when  she 
first  saw  the  young  officer  from  the  window — and  yet  she 
was  already  in  correspondence  with  him,  and  he  had  suc- 
ceeded in  inducing  her  to  grant  him  a  nocturnal  interview  ! 
She  knew  his  name  only  through  his  having  written  it  at  the 
bottom  of  some  of  his  letters ;  she  had  never  spoken  to  him, 
had  never  heard  his  voice,  and  had  never  heard  him  spoken 
of  until  that  evening.  But,  strange  to  say,  that  very  evening 
at  the  ball,  Tomsky,  being  piqued  with  the  young  Princess 

Pauline  N ,  who,  contrary  to  her  usual  custom,  did  not 

flirt  with  him,  wished  to  revenge  himself  by  assuming  an  air 
of  indifference  :  he  therefore  engaged  Lizaveta  Ivanovna  and 
danced  an  endless  mazurka  with  her.  During  the  whole  of 
the  time  he  kept  teasing  her  about  her  partiality  for  Engineer 
officers;  he  assured  her  that  he  knew  far  more  than  she 
imagined,  and  some  of  his  jests  were  so  happily  aimed,  that 


Lizaveta  thought  several  times  that  her  secret  was  known  to 

**From  whom  have  you  learnt  all  this?"  she  asked, 

"From  a  friend  of  a  person  very  well  known  to  you," 
replied  Tomsky,  "  from  a  very  distinguished  man." 

"  And  who  is  this  distinguished  man  ?  " 

**  His  name  is  Hermann." 

Lizaveta  made  no  reply ;  but  her  hands  and  feet  lost  all 
sense  of  feeling. 

"This  Hermann,"  continued  Tomsky,  "is  a  man  of 
romantic  personality.  He  has  the  profile  of  a  Napoleon,  and 
the  soul  of  a  Mephistopheles.  I  believe  that  he  has  at  least 
three  crimes  upon  his  conscience  .  .  .  How  pale  you  have 
become ! " 

"  I  have  a  headache  .  .  .  But  what  did  this  Hermann — 
or  whatever  his  name  is — tell  you  ?  " 

"  Hermann  is  very  much  dissatisfied  with  his  friend  :  he 
says  that  in  his  place  he  would  act  very  differently  ...  I 
even  think  that  Hermann  himself  has  designs  upon  you  ;  at 
least,  he  listens  very  attentively  to  all  that  his  friend  has  to 
say  about  you." 

"  And  where  has  he  seen  me  ?  " 

"In  church,  perhaps;  or  on  the  parade — God  alone 
knows  where.  It  may  have  been  in  your  room,  while  you 
were  asleep,  for  there  is  nothing  that  he " 

Three  ladies  approaching  him  with  the  question :  "  oubli 
ou  regret  2  "  interrupted  the  conversation,  which  had  become 
so  tantalizingly  interesting  to  Lizaveta. 

The  lady  chosen  by  Tomsky  was  the  Princess  Pauline 
herself.  She  succeeded  in  effecting  a  reconciliation  with 
him  during  the  numerous  turns  of  the  dance,  after  which  he 
conducted  her  to  her  chair.  On  returning  to  his  place, 
Tomsky  thought  no  more  either  of  Hermann  or  Lizaveta. 


She  longed  to  renew  the  interrupted  conversation,  but  the 
mazurka  came  to  an  end,  and  shortly  afterwards  the  old 
Countess  took  her  departure. 

Tomsky's  words  were  nothing  more  than  the  customary 
small  talk  of  the  dance,  but  they  sank  deep  into  the  soul  of 
the  young  dreamer.  The  portrait,  sketched  by  Tomsky, 
coincided  with  the  picture  she  had  formed  within  her  own 
mind,  and  thanks  to  the  latest  romances,  the  ordinary 
countenance  of  her  admirer  became  invested  with  attributes 
capable  of  alarming  her  and  fascinating  her  imagination  at 
the  same  time.  She  was  now  sitting  with  her  bare  arms 
crossed  and  with  her  head,  still  adorned  with  flowers,  sunk 
upon  her  uncovered  bosom.  Suddenly  the  door  opened 
and  Hermann  entered.     She  shuddered. 

"  Where  were  you  ?  "  she  asked  in  a  terrified  whisper. 

"  In  the  old  Countess's  bedroom,"  replied  Hermann :  "  I 
have  just  left  her.     The  Countess  is  dead." 

"  My  God  !     What  do  you  say  ?  " 

"And  I  am  afraid,"  added  Hermann,  "that  I  am  the 
cause  of  her  death." 

Lizaveta  looked  at  him,  and  Tomsky's  words  found  an 
echo  in  her  soul :  "  This  man  has  at  least  three  crimes  upon 
his  conscience ! "  Hermann  sat  down  by  the  window  near 
her,  and  related  all  that  had  happened. 

Lizaveta  listened  to  him  in  terror.  So  all  those  passionate 
letters,  those  ardent  desires,  this  bold  obstinate  pursuit — all 
this  was  not  love  !  Money — that  was  what  his  soul  yearned 
for !  She  could  not  satisfy  his  desire  and  make  him  happy  ! 
The  poor  girl  had  been  nothing  but  the  blind  tool  of  a 
robber,  of  the  murderer  of  her  aged  benefactress  !  .  .  .  She 
wept  bitter  tears  of  agonized  repentance.  Hermann  gazed 
at  her  in  silence :  his  heart,  too,  was  a  prey  to  violent 
emotion,  but  neither  the  tears  of  the  poor  girl,  nor  the 
wonderful  charm  of  her  beauty,  enhanced  by  her  grief,  could 



produce  any  impression  upon  his  hardened  soul.  He  felt  no 
pricking  of  conscience  at  the  thought  of  the  dead  old 
woman.  One  thing  only  grieved  him  :  the  irreparable  loss 
of  the  secret  from  which  he  had  expected  to  obtain  great 

"  You  are  a  monster ! "  said  Lizaveta  at  last. 

**  I  did  not  wish  for  her  death,"  replied  Hermann  :  "  my 
pistol  was  not  loaded." 

Both  remained  silent. 

The  day  began  to  dawn.  Lizaveta  extinguished  her 
candle :  a  pale  light  illumined  her  room.  She  wiped  her 
tear-stained  eyes  and  raised  them  towards  Hermann :  he 
was  sitting  near  the  window,  with  his  arms  crossed  and  with 
a  fierce  frown  upon  his  forehead.  In  this  attitude  he  bore  a 
striking  resemblance  to  the  portrait  of  Napoleon.  This 
resemblance  struck  Lizaveta  even. 

"  How  shall  I  get  you  out  of  the  house  ? "  said  she  at 
last.  "  I^  thought  of  conducting  you  down  the  secret  stair- 
case, but  in  th^t  case  it  would  be  necessary  to  go  through 
the  Countess's  bedroom,  and  I  am  afraid." 

"Tell  me  how  to  find  this  secret  staircase — I  will  go 

Lizaveta  arose,  took  from  her  drawer  a  key,  handed  it  to 
Hermann  and  gave  him  the  necessary  instructions.  Hermann 
pressed  her  cold,  powerless  hand,  kissed  her  bowed  head, 
and  left  the  room. 
B  He  descended  the  winding  staircase,  and  once  more 
entered  the  Countess's  bedroom.  The  dead  old  lady  sat  as 
if  petrified;  her  face  expressed  profound  tranquillity. 
Hermann  stopped  before  her,  and  gazed  long  and  earnestly 
at  her,  as  if  he  wished  to  convince  himself  of  the  terrible 
reality;  at  last  he  entered  the  cabinet,  felt  behind  the 
tapestry  for  the  door,  and  then  began  to  descend  the  dark 
staircase,  filled  with  strange  emotions.     "  Down  this  very 

286  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

staircase,"  thought  he,  "  perhaps  coming  from  the  very  same 
room,  and  at  this  very  same  hour  sixty  years  ago,  there  may 
have  glided,  in  an  embroidered  coat,  with  his  hair  dressed 
h  Poiseau  royal  and  pressing  to  his  heart  his  three-cornered 
hat,  some  young  gallant  who  has  long  been  mouldering  in 
the  grave,  but  the  heart  of  his  aged  mistress  has  only  to-day 
ceased  to  beat.  ..." 

At  the  bottom  of  the  staircase  Hermann  found  a  door, 
which  he  opened  with  a  key,  and  then  traversed  a  corridor 
which  conducted  him  into  the  street. 



THREE  days  after  the  fatal  night,  at  nine  o'clock  in  the 
morning,  Hermann  repaired  to  the  Convent  of , 

where  the  last  honours  were  to  be  paid  to  the  mortal  remains 
of  the  old  Countess.  Although  feeling  no  remorse,  he  could 
not  altogether  stifle  the  voice  of  conscience,  which  said  to 
him  :  *'  You  are  the  murderer  of  the  old  woman  ! "  In  spite 
of  his  entertaining  very  little  religious  belief,  he  was  exceed- 
ingly superstitious;  and  believing  that  the  dead  Countess 
might  exercise  an  evil  influence  on  his  life,  he  resolved  to 
be  present  at  her  obsequies  in  order  to  implore  her  pardon. 

The  church  was  full.  It  was  with  difficulty  that  Hermann 
made  his  way' through  the  crowd  of  people.  The  coffin  was 
placed  upon  a  rich  catafalque  beneath  a  velvet  baldachin. 
The  deceased  Countess  lay  within  it,  with  her  hands  crossed 
upon  her  breast,  with  a  lace  cap  upon  her  head  and  dressed 
in  a  white  satin  robe.  Around  the  catafalque  stood  the 
members  of  her  household :  the  servants  in  black  caftans^ 
with  armorial  ribbons  upon  their  shoulders,  and  candles  in 
their  hands  \  the  relatives — children,  grandchildren,  and 
great-grandchildren — in  deep  mourning. 

Nobody  wept ;  tears  would  have  been  une  affectation.  The 
Countess  was  so  old,  that  her  death  could  have  surprised 
nobody,  and  her  relatives  had  long  looked  upon  her  as 
being  out  of  the  world.  A  famous  preacher  pronounced  the 
funeral  sermon.  In  simple  and  touching  words  he  described 
the  peaceful  passing  away  of  the  righteous,  who  had  passed 
long  years  in  calm  preparation  for  a  Christian  end.     "The 


angel  of  death  found  her,"  said  the  orator,  "  engaged  in 
pious  meditation  and  waiting  for  the  midnight  bridegroom." 

The  service  concluded  amidst  profound  silence.  The 
relatives  went  forward  first  to  take  farewell  of  the  corpse. 
Then  followed  the  numerous  guests,  who  had  come  to 
render  the  last  homage  to  her  who  for  so  many  years  had 
been  a  participator  in  their  frivolous  amusements.  After 
these  followed  the  members  of  the  Countess's  household. 
The  last  of  these  was  an  old  woman  of  the  same  age  as  the 
deceased.  Two  young  women  led  her  forward  by  the  hand. 
She  had  not  strength  enough  to  bow  down  to  the  ground — 
she  merely  shed  a  few  tears  and  kissed  the  cold  hand  of  her 

Hermann  now  resolved  to  approach  the  coffin.  He 
knelt  down  upon  the  cold  stones  and  remained  in  that 
position  for  some  minutes ;  at  last  he  arose,  as  pale 
as  the  deceased  Countess  herself ;  he  ascended  the  steps  of 
the  catafalque  and  bent  over  the  corpse.  ...  At  that 
moment  it  seemed  to  him  that  the  dead  woman  darted 
a  mocking  look  at  him  and  winked  with  one  eye.  Hermann 
started  back,  took  a  false  step  and  fell  to  the  ground. 
Several  persons  hurried  forward  and  raised  him  up.  At 
the  same  moment  Lizaveta  Ivanovna  was  borne  fainting  into 
the  porch  of  the  church.  This  episode  disturbed  for  some 
minutes  the  solemnity  of  the  gloomy  ceremony.  Among 
the  congregation  arose  a  deep  murmur,  and  a  tall  thin 
chamberlain,  a  near  relative  of  the  deceased,  whispered 
in  the  ear  of  an  Englishman  who  was  standing  near  him, 
that  the  young  officer  was  a  natural  son  of  the  Countess,  to 
which  the  Englishman  coldly  replied  :  "  Oh  ! " 

During  the  whole  of  that  day,  Hermann  was  strangely 
excited.  Repairing  to  an  out-of-the-way  restaurant  to  dine, 
he  drank  a  great  deal  of  wine,  contrary  to  his  usual  custom, 
in  the  hope  of  deadening  his  inward   agitation.     But  the 


vs'ine  only  served  to  excite  his  imagination  still  more.  On 
returning  home,  he  threw  himself  upon  his  bed  without 
undressing,  and  fell  into  a  deep  sleep. 

When  he  woke  up  it  was  already  night,  and  the  moon  was 
shining  into  the  room.  He  looked  at  his  watch :  it  was  a 
quarter  to  three.  Sleep  had  left  him ;  he  sat  down  upon  his 
bed  and  thought  of  the  funeral  of  the  old  Countess. 

At  that  moment  somebody  in  the  street  looked  in  at  his 
window,  and  immediately  passed  on  again.  Hermann  paid 
no  attention  to  this  incident.  A  few  moments  afterwards  he 
heard  the  door  of  his  ante-room  open.  Hermann  thought 
that  it  was  his  orderly,  drunk  as  usual,  returning  from 
some  nocturnal  expedition,  but  presently  he  heard  footsteps 
that  were  unknown  to  him  :  somebody  was  walking  softly 
over  the  floor  in  slippers.  The  door  opened,  and  a  woman 
dressed  in  white,  entered  the  room.  Hermann  mistook  her 
for  his  old  nurse,  and  wondered  what  could  bring  her  there 
at  that  hour  of,  the  night.     But  the  white  woman  glided 

rapidly  across-*' the   room  and    stood    before  him and 

Hermann  recognized  the  Countess  ! 

"  I  have  come  to  you  against  my  wish,"  she  said  in 
a  firm  voice  :  "  but  I  have  been  ordered  to  grant  your 
request.  Three,  seven,  ace,  will  win  for  you  if  played 
in  succession,  but  only  on  these  conditions :  that  you 
do  not  play  more  than  one  card  in  twenty-four  hours, 
and  that  you  never  play  again  during  the  rest  of  your 
life.  I  forgive  you  my  death,  on  condition  that  you 
marry  my  companion,  Lizaveta  Ivanovna." 

With  these  words  she  turned  round  very  quietly,  walked 
with  a  shuffling  gait  towards  the  door  and  disappeared. 
Hermann  heard  the  street-door  open  and  shut,  and  again  he 
saw  someone  look  in  at  him  through  the  window. 

For  a  long  time  Hermann  could  not  recover  himself. 
He  then  rose  up  and  entered  the  next  room.     His  orderly 

290         POUSHKIN'S  PROSE  TALES. 

was  lying  asleep  upon  the  floor,  and  he  had  much  difficulty 
in  waking  him.  The  orderly  was  drunk  as  usual,  and  no  in- 
formation could  be  obtained  from  him.  The  street-dooi 
was  locked.  Hermann  returned  to  his  room,  lit  his  candle, 
and  wrote  down  all  the  details  of  his  vision. 




TT^WO  fixed  ideas  can  no  more  exist  together  in  the 
X  moral  world  than  two  bodies  can  occupy  one  and  the 
fame  place  in  the  physical  world.  '*  Three,  seven,  ace " 
)Oon  drove  out  of  Hermann's  mind  the  thought  of  the  dead 
Ilountess.  **  Three,  seven,  ace  "  were  perpetually  running 
hrough  his  head  and  continually  being  repeated  by  his  lips, 
[f  he  saw  a  young  girl,  he  would  say  :  "  How  slender  she  is  ! 
|uite  like  the  three  of  hearts."  If  anybody  asked  :  "  What 
s  the  time  ?  "  he  would  reply :  "  Five  minutes  to  seven." 
ivery  stout  man  that  he  saw  reminded  him  of  the  ace. 
'Three,  seven,  ace"  haunted  him  in  his  sleep,  and  assumed 
ill  possible  shapes.  The  threes  bloomed  before  him  in  the 
brms  of  magnificent  flowers,  the  sevens  were  represented  by 
jothic  portals,  and  the  aces  became  transformed  into 
;igantic  spiders.  One  thought  alone  occupied  his  whole 
nind — to  make  a  profitable  use  of  the  secret  which  he 
lad  purchased  so  dearly.  He  thought  of  applying  for  a 
urlough  so  as  to  travel  abroad.  He  wanted  to  go  to 
^aris  and  tempt  fortune  in  some  of  the  public  gambling-' 
lOuses  that  abounded  there.  Chance  spared  him  all  this 

There  was  in  Moscow  a  society  of  rich  gamesters,  pre- 
ided  over  by  the  celebrated  Chekalinsky,  who  had  passed 
11  his  life  at  the  card-table  and  had  amassed  millions, 
ccepting  bills  of  exchange  for  his  winnings  and  paying 
is  losses  in  ready  money.  His  long  experience  secured  for 
im  the  confidence  of  hjs  companions,  and  his  open  house, 



292  POUSHKIN'S   prose  TALES. 

his  famous  cook,  and  his  agreeable  and  fascinating  manners 
gained  for  him  the  respect  of  the  public.  He  came  to  St. 
Petersburg.  The  young  men  of  the  capital  flocked  to 
his  rooms,  forgetting  balls  for  cards,  and  preferring  the 
emotions  of  faro  to  the  seductions  of  flirting.  Naroumoff 
conducted  Hermann  to  Chekalinsky's  residence. 

They  passed  through  a  suite  of  magnificent  rooms,  filled 
with  attentive  domestics.  The  place  was  crowded.  Gene- 
rals and  Privy  Counsellors  were  playing  at  whist ;  young 
men  were  lolling  carelessly  upon  the  velvet-covered  sofas, 
eating  ices  and  smoking  pipes.  In  the  drawing-room,  at  the 
head  of  a  long  table,  around  which  were  assembled  about  a 
score  of  players,  sat  the  master  of  the  house  keeping  the  bank. 
He  was  a  man  of  about  sixty  years  of  age,  of  a  very  dignified 
appearance  ;  his  head  was  covered  with  silvery- white  hair ; 
his  full,  florid  countenance  expressed  good-nature,  and  his 
eyes  twinkled  with  a  perpetual  smile.  Naroumofl"  intro- 
duced Hermann  to  him.  Chekalinsky  shook  him  by  the 
hand  in  a  friendly  manner,  requested  him  not  to  stand  on 
ceremony,  and  then  went  on  dealing. 

The  game  occupied  some  time.  On  the  table  lay  more 
than  thirty  cards.  Chekalinsky  paused  after  each  throw,  in 
order  to  give  the  players  time  to  arrange  their  cards  and 
note  down  their  losses,  listened  politely  to  their  requests, 
and  more  politely  still,  put  straight  the  corners  of  cards  that 
some  player's  hand  had  chanced  to  bend.  At  last  the  game 
was  finished.  Chekalinsky  shuffled  the  cards  and  prepared 
to  deal  again. 

*'Will  you  allow  me  to  take  a  card?"  said  Hermann, 
stretching  out  his  hand  from  behind  a  stout  gentleman  who 
was  punting. 

Chekalinsky  smiled  and  bowed  silently,  as  a  sign  of 
acquiescence.  Naroumoff  laughingly  congratulated  Her- 
mann on  his  abjuration  of  that  abstention  from  cards  which 


he  had  practised  for  so  long  a  period,  and  wished  him  a 
lucky  beginning. 

"  Stake ! "  said  Hermann,  writing  some  figures  with  chalk 
on  the  back  of  his  card. 

*'  How  much?"  asked  the  banker,  contracting  the  muscles 
of  his  eyes  ;  "  excuse  me,  I  cannot  see  quite  clearly." 

"  Forty-seven  thousand  roubles,"  replied  Hermann. 

At  these  words  every  head  in  the  room  turned  suddenly 
round,  and  all  eyes  were  fixed  upon  Hermann. 

"  He  has  taken  leave  of  his  senses  ! "  thought  Naroumof^. 

"  Allow  me  to  inform  you,"  said  Chekalinsky,  with  his 
eternal  smile,  "  that  you  are  playing  very  high  ;  nobody  here 
has  ever  staked  more  than  two  hundred  and  seventy-five 
roubles  at  once." 

"Very  well,"  replied  Hermann;  "but  do  you  accept  my 
card  or  not  ?  " 

Chekalinsky  bowed  in  token  of  consent. 

"  I  only  wish  to  observe,"  said  he,  "  that  although  I  have 
the  greatest  Qdhfidence  in  my  friends,  I  can  only  play 
against  ready  money.  For  my  own  part,  I  am  quite  con- 
vinced that  your  word  is  sufficient,  but  for  the  sake  of  the 
order  of  the  game,  and  to  facilitate  the  reckoning  up,  I  must 
ask  you  to  put  the  money  on  your  card." 

Hermann  drew  from  his  pocket  a  bank-note  and  handed 
it  to  Chekalinsky,  who,  after  examining  it  in  a  cursory 
manner,  placed  it  on  Hermann's  card. 

He  began  to  deal.  On  the  right  a  nine  turned  up,  and 
on  the  left  a  three. 

"  I  have  won  !  "  said  Hermann,  showing  his  card. 

A  murmur  of  astonishment  arose  among  the  players.  Che- 
kalinsky frowned,  but  the  smile  quickly  returned  to  his  face. 

"  Do  you  wish  me  to  settle  with  you  ? "  he  said  to 

"  If  you  please,"  replied  the  latter. 

294  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

Chekalinsky  drew  from  his  pocket  a  number  of  bank- 
notes and  paid  at  once.  Hermann  took  up  his  money  and 
left  the  table.  Naroumoff  could  not  recover  from  his 
astonishment.  Hermann  drank  a  glass  of  lemonade  and 
returned  home. 

The  next  evening  he  again  repaired  to  Chekalinsky's. 
The  host  was  dealing.  Hermann  walked  up  to  the  table  ; 
the  punters  immediately  made  room  for  him.  Chekalinsky 
greeted  him  with  a  gracious  bow. 

Hermann  waited  for  the  next  deal,  took  a  card  and  placed 
upon  it  his  forty-seven  thousand  roubles,  together  with  his 
winnings  of  the  previous  evening. 

Chekalinsky  began  to  deal.  A  knave  turned  up  on  the 
right,  a  seven  on  the  left. 

Hermann  showed  his  seven. 

There  was  a  general  exclamation.  Chekalinsky  was 
evidently  ill  at  ease,  but  he  counted  out  the  ninety-four 
thousand  roubles  and  handed  them  over  to  Hermann,  who 
pocketed  them  in  the  coolest  manner  possible  and  im- 
mediately left  the  house. 

The  next  evening  Hermann  appeared  again  at  the  table. 
Everyone  was  expecting  him.  The  generals  and  Privy 
Counsellors  left  their  whist  in  order  to  watch  such  extra- 
ordinary play.  The  young  officers  quitted  their  sofas,  and 
even  the  servants  crowded  into  the  room.  All  pressed 
round  Hermann.  The  other  players  left  off  punting,  im- 
patient to  see  how  it  would  end.  Hermann  stood  at  the 
table  and  prepared  to  play  alone  against  the  pale,  but  still 
smiling  Chekalinsky.  Each  opened  a  pack  of  cards. 
Chekalinsky  shuffled.  Hermann  took  a  card  and  covered 
it  with  a  pile  of  bank-notes.  It  was  like  a  duel.  Deep 
silence  reigned  around. 

Chekalinsky  began  to  deal ;  his  hands  trembled.  On  the 
right  a  queen  turned  up,  and  on  the  left  an  ace. 


"  Ace  has  won  ! "  cried  Hermann,  showing  his  card. 

"  Your  queen  has  lost,"  said  Chekalinsky,  politely. 

Hermann  started ;  instead  of  an  ace,  there  lay  before  him 
the  queen  of  spades  !  He  could  not  believe  his  eyes,  nor 
could  he  understand  how  he  had  made  such  a  mistake. 

At  that  moment  it  seemed  to  him  that  the  queen  of 
spades  smiled  ironically  and  winked  her  eye  at  him.  He 
was  struck  by  her  remarkable  resemblance.  .  .  . 

"  The  old  Countess  ! "  he  exclaimed,  seized  with  terror. 

Chekalinsky  gathered  up  his  winnings.  For  some  time, 
Hermann  remained  perfectly  motionless.  When  at  last 
he  left  the  table,  there  was  a  general  commotion  in  the 

"  Splendidly  punted  ! "   said  the   players.     Chekalinsky 
shuffled  the  cards  afresh,  and  the  game  went  on  as  usual. 
*  #  #  *  * 

Hermann  went  oai  01  niS  mind,  and  is  now  confined  in 
room  Number  17  of  the  Oboukhoff  Hospital.  He  never 
answers  any  'questions,  but  he  constantly  mutters  with 
unusual  rapidity :  "  Three,  seven,  ace !  Three,  seven, 
queen  ! " 

Lizaveta  Ivanovna  has  married  a  very  amiable  young 
man,  a  son  of  the  former  steward  of  the  old  Countess.  He 
is  in  the  service  of  the  State  somewhere,  and  is  in  receipt  of 
a  good  income.  Lizaveta  is  also  supporting  a  poor  re- 

Tomsky  has  been  promoted  to  the  rank  of  captain,  and 
has  become  the  husband  of  the  Princess  Pauline. 





IN  one  of  our  most  distant  governments  was  situated  the 
domain  of  Ivan  Petrovitch  Berestoff.  In  his  youth  he 
had  served  in  the  Guards,  but  having  quitted  the  service  at 
the  beginning  of  the  year  1797,  he  repaired  to  his  estate,  and 
since  that  time  he  had  not  stirred  away  from  it.  He  had 
married  a  poor  but  noble  lady,  who  died  in  child-bed  at  a 
time  when  he  was  absent  from  home  on  a  visit  to  one  of  the 
outlying  fields  of  his  domain.  He  soon  found  consolation  in 
domestic  occupations.  He  built  a  house  on  a  plan  of  his 
own,  established  a  cloth  manufactory,  made  good  use  of  his 
revenues,  and  began  to  consider  himself  the  most  sensible 
man  in  the  whole  country  roundabout,  and  in  this  he  was 
not  contradicted  by  those  of  his  neighbours  who  came  to 
visit  him  with  their  families  and  their  dogs.  On  week-days 
he  wore  a  plush  jacket,  but  on  Sundays  and  holidays  he 
appeared  in  a  surtout  of  cloth  that  had  been  manufactured 
on  his  own  premises.  He  himself  kept  an  account  of  all  his 
expenses,  and  he  never  read  anything  except  the  "  Senate 

In  general  he  was  liked,  although  he  was  considered 
proud.  There  was  only  one  person  who  was  not  on  good 
terms  with  him,  and  that  was  Gregory  Ivanovitch  Mouromsky, 
his  nearest  neighbour.  This  latter  was  a  genuine  Russian 
noble  of  the  old  stamp.  After  having  squandered  in  Moscow 
the  greater  part  of  his  fortune,  and  having  become  a  widower 
about  the  same  time,  he  retired  to  his  last  remaining  estate, 

30O  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

where  he  continued  to  indulge  in  habits  of  extravagance,  but 
of  a  new  kind.  He  laid  out  an  English  garden,  on  which 
he  expended  nearly  the  whole  of  his  remaining  revenue. 
His  grooms  were  dressed  like  English  jockeys,  his  daughter 
had  an  English  governess,  and  his  fields  were  cultivated 
after  the  English  method. 

"  But  after  the  foreign  manner  Russian  com  does  not  bear 
fruit,"  and  in  spite  of  a  considerable  reduction  in  his 
expenses,  the  revenues  of  Gregory  Ivanovitch  did  not 
increase.  He  found  means,  even  in  the  country,  of  con- 
tracting new  debts.  Nevertheless  he  was  not  considered  a 
fool,  for  he  was  the  first  landowner  in  his  government  who 
conceived  the  idea  of  placing  his  estate  under  the  safeguard 
of  a  council  of  tutelage — a  proceeding  which  at  that  time 
was  considered  exceedingly  complicated  and  venturesome. 
Of  all  those  who  censured  him,  BerestofF  showed  himself 
the  most  severe.  Hatred  of  all  innovation  was  a  distinguish- 
ing trait  in  his  character.  He  could  not  bring  himself  to 
speak  calmly  of  the  Anglomania  of  his  neighbour,  and  he 
constantly  found  occasion  to  criticise  him.  If  he  showed  his 
possessions  to  a  guest,  in  reply  to  the  praises  bestowed  upon 
him  for  his  economical  arrangements,  he  would  say  with  a 
sly  smile :  - 

"  Ah  yes,  it  is  not  the  same  with  me  as  with  my  neighbour 
Gregory  Ivanovitch.  What  need  have  we  to  ruin  ourselves 
in  the  English  style,, when  we  have  enough  to  do  to  keep  the 
wolf  from  the  door-  in  the  Russian  style  ?  " 

These,  and  similar  sarcastic  remarks,  thanks  to  the  zeal  of 
obliging  neighbours,  did  not  fail  to  reach  the  ears  of  Gregory 
Ivanovitch  greatly  embellished.  The  Anglomaniac  bore 
criticism  as  impatiently  as  our  journalists.  He  became 
furious,  and  called  his  traducer  a  bear  and  a  countryman. 

Such  were  the  relations  between  the  two  proprietors, 
when  the   son  of  Berestoff  returned   home  to  his  father's 


estate.     He  had  been  educated  at  the  University  of , 

and  was  anxious  to  enter  the  military  service,  but  to  this  his 
father  would  not  give  his  consent.  For  the  civil  service  the 
young  man  had  not  the  slightest  inclination,  and  as  neither 
felt  inclined  to  yield  to  the  other,  the  young  Alexei  lived  in 
the  meantime  like  a  nobleman,  and  allowed  his  moustache 
to  grow  at  all  events.^ 

Alexei  was  indeed  a  fine  young  fellow,  and  it  would  really 
have  been  a  pity  were  his  slender  figure  never  to  be  set  off 
to  advantage  by  a  military  uniform,  and  were  he  to  be  com- 
pelled to  spend  his  youth  in  bending  over  the  papers  of  the 
chancery  office,  instead  of  bestriding  a  gallant  steed.  The 
neighbours,  observing  how  he  was  always  first  in  the  chase, 
and  always  out  of  the  beaten  tracks,  unanimously  agreed 
that  he  would  never  make  a  useful  official.  The  young  ladies 
gazed  after  him,  and  sometimes  cast  stolen  glances  at  him, 
but  Alexei  troubled  himself  very  little  about  them,  and  they 
attributed  this  insensibility  to  some  secret  love  affair. 
Indeed,  there  passed  from  hand  to  hand  a  copy  of  the 
address  of  one  of  his  letters :  '*  To  Akoulina  Petrovna 
Kourotchkin,  in  Moscow,  opposite  the  Alexeivsky  Monastery, 
in  the  house  of  the  coppersmith  Saveleff,  with  the  request 
that  she  will  forward  this  letter  to  A.  N.  R." 

Those  of  my  readers  who  have  never  lived  in  the  country, 
cannot  imagine  how  charming  these  provincial  young  ladies 
are  !  Brought  up  in  the  pure  air,  under  the  shadow  of  the 
apple  trees  of  their  gardens,  they  derive  their  knowledge  of 
the  world  and  of  life  chiefly  from  books.  Solitude,  freedom, 
and  reading  develop  very  early  within  them  sentiments  and 
passions  unknown  to  our  town-bred  beauties.  For  the 
young  ladies  of  the  country  the  sound  of  the  post-bell  is  an 
event;  a  journey  to  the  nearest  town  marks  an  epoch  in 

^  It  was  formerly  the  custom  in  Russia  for  military  men  only  to  wear 
the  moustache. 


their  lives,  and  the  visit  of  a  guest  leaves  behind  a  long,  and 
sometimes  an  eternal  recollection.  Of  course  everybody  is 
at  liberty  to  laugh  at  some  of  their  peculiarities,  but  the 
jokes  of  a  superficial  observer  cannot  nullify  their  essential 
merits,  the  chief  of  which  is  that  personality  of  character, 
that  individualite^  without  which,  in  Jean  Paul's  opinion, 
there  can  be  no  human  greatness.  In  the  capitals,  women 
receive  perhaps  a  better  instruction,  but  intercourse  with  the 
world  soon  levels  the  character  and  makes  their  souls  as 
uniform  as  their  head-dresses.  This  is  said  neither  by  way 
of  praise  nor  yet  by  way  of  censure,  but  "  nota  nostra 
manet^^  as  one  of  the  old  commentators  writes. 

It  can  easily  be  imagined  what  impression  Alexei  would 
produce  among  the  circle  of  our  young  ladies.  He  was  the 
first  who  appeared  before  them  gloomy  and  disenchanted, 
the  first  who  spoke  to  them  of  lost  happiness  and  of  his 
blighted  youth ;  in  addition  to  which  he  wore  a  mourning 
ring  engraved  with  a  death's  head.  All  this  was  something 
quite  new  in  that  distant  government.  The  young  ladies 
simply  went  out  of  their  minds  about  him. 

But  not  one  of  them  felt  so  much  interest  in  him  as  the 
daughter  of  our  Anglomaniac  Liza,  or  Betsy,  as  Gregory 
Ivanovitch  usually  called  her.  As  their  parents  did  not 
visit  each  other,  she  had  not  yet  seen  Alexei,  even  when  he 
had  become  the  sole  topic  of  conversation  among  all  the 
young  ladies  of  the  neighbourhood.  She  was  seventeen 
years  of  age.  Dark  eyes  illuminated  her  swarthy  and 
exceedingly  pleasant  countenance.  She  was  an  only  child, 
and  consequently  she  was  perfectly  spoiled.  Her  wanton- 
ness and  continual  pranks  delighted  her  father  and  filled 
with  despair  the  heart  of  Miss  Jackson,  her  governess,  an 
affected  old  maid  of  forty,  who  powdered  her  face  and 
darkened  her  eyebrows,  read  through  "  Pamela "  ^  twice  a 
*  A  novel  written  by  Samuel  Richardson,  and  first  published  in  1740. 


year,  for  which  she  received  two  thousand  roubles,  and  felt 
almost  bored  to  death  in  this  barbarous  Russia  of  ours. 

Liza  was  waited  upon  by  Nastia,  who,  although  somewhat 
older,  was  quite  as  giddy  as  her  mistress.  Liza  was  very 
fond  of  her,  revealed  to  her  all  her  secrets,  and  planned 
pranks  together  with  her ;  in  a  word,  Nastia  was  a  far  more 
important  person  in  the  village  of  Priloutchina,  than  the" 
trusted  confidante  in  a  French  tragedy. 

"  Will  you  allow  me  to  go  out  to-day  on  a  visit  ? "  said 
Nastia  one  morning,  as  she  was  dressing  her  mistress. 

"  Very  well ;  but  where  are  you  going  to  ?  " 

"To  Tougilovo,  to  the  Berestoffs.  The  wife  of  their  cook 
is  going  to  celebrate  her  name-day  to-day,  and  she  came 
over  yesterday  to  invite  us  to  dinner.^' 

"That's  curious,^'  said  Liza :  "the  masters  are  at  daggers 
drawn,  but  the  servants  fete  each  other/' 

"  What  have  the  masters  to  do  with  us  ?  "  replied  Nastia. 
"Besides,  I  belong  to  you,  and  not  to  your  papa.  You 
have  not  had  atiiy  quarrel  with  young  Berestoff  j  let  the  old 
ones  quarrel  and  fight,  if  it  gives  them  any  pleasure." 

"Try  and  see  Alexei  Berestoff,  Nastia,  and  then  tell  me 
what  he  looks  like  and  what  sort  of  a  person  he  is," 

Nastia  promised  to  do  so,  and  all  day  long  Liza  waited 
with  impatience  for  her  return.  In  the  evening  Nastia  made 
her  appearance. 

"Well,  Lizaveta  Gregorievna,"  said  she,  on  entering  the 
room,  "I  have  seen  young  Berestoff,  and  I  had  ample 
opportunity  for  taking  a  good  look  at  him,  for  we  have  been 
together  all  day." 

"  How  did  that  happen  ?  Tell  me  about  it,  tell  me  every- 
thing about  it." 

"Very  well.     We  set  out,  I,  Anissia  Egorovna,  Nenila, 
Dounka.  .  .  ." 
.    "  Yes,  yes^  I  know.     And  then  f  " 

304  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

"With  your  leave,  I  will  tell  you  everything  in  detail. 
We  arrived  just  in  time  for  dinner.  The  room  was  full  ol 
people.  The  Kolbinskys  were  there,  as  well  as  the  Zakha- 
revskys,  the  Khloupinskys,  the  bailiff's  wife  and  her  daugh- 
ters. .  .  ." 

"Well,  andBerestoff?" 

*'Wait  a  moment.  We  sat  down  to  table;  the  bailiff's 
wife  had  the  place  of  honour.  I  sat  next  to  her  .  .  .  the 
daughters  pouted  and  didn't  like  it,  but  I  didn't  care  about 
them.  .  .  ." 

"Good  heavens,  Nastia,  how  tiresome  you  are  with  your 
never-ending  details ! " 

"  How  impatient  you  are  !  Well,  we  rose  from  the  table 
...  we  had  been  sitting  down  for  three  hours,  and  the 
dinner  was  excellent :  pastry,  blanc-manges,  blue,  red  and 
striped.  .  .  .  Well,  we  left  the  table  and  went  into  the 
garden  to  have  a  game  at  catching  one  another,  and  it  was 
then  that  the  young  lord  made  his  appearance." 

"  Well,  and  is  it  true  that  he  is  so  very  handsome  ?  " 
"  Exceedingly  handsome :   tall,  well-built,  and  with  red 
cheeks.  .  .  ." 

"  Really  ?     And  I  was  under  the  impression  that  he  was 

fair.    Well,  and  how  did  he  seem  to  you  ?     Sad,  thoughtful  ?  " 

"  Nothing  of  the  kind !     I  have  never  in  my  life  seen 

such  a  frolicsome  person.     He  wanted  to  join  in  the  game 

with  us." 

"  Join  in  the  game  with  you  ?     Impossible  1 " 
"Not  all  impossible.     And  what  else  do  you  think  he 
wanted  to  do  ?     To  kiss  us  all  round  ! " 

"With  your  permission,  Nastia,  you  are  talking  non- 

"With  your  permission,  I  am  not  talking  nonsense.  I 
had  the  greatest  trouble  in  the  world  to  get  away  from  him. 
He  spent  the  whole  day  along  with  us." 


"  But  they  say  that  he  is  in  love,  and  hasn't  eyes  for  any- 

"I  don't  know  anything  about  that,  but  I  know  that  he 
looked  at  me  a  good  deal,  and  so  he  did  at  Tania,  the 
bailiff's  daughter,  and  at  Pasha  ^  Kolbinsky  also.  But  it 
cannot  be  said  that  he  offended  anybody — he  is  so  very 

"That  is  extraordinary!  And  what  do  they  say  about 
him  in  the  house?" 

'*  They  say  that  he  is  an  excellent  master — so  kind,  so 
cheerful.  They  have  only  one  fault  to  find  with  him  :  he  is 
too  fond  of  running  after  the  young  girls.  But  for  my  part, 
I  don't  think  that  is  a  very  great  fault :  he  will  grow  steady 
with  age." 

"How  I  should  like  to  see  him  !"  said  Liza,  with  a  sigh. 

"  What  is  there  to  hinder  you  from  doing  so  ?  Tougilovo 
is  not  far  from  us — only  about  three  versts.  Go  and  take  a 
walk  in  that  direction,  or  a  ride  on  horseback,  and  you  will 
assuredly  meejt  him.  He  goes  out  early  every  morning  with 
his  gun." 

"  No,  no,  that  would  not  do.  He  might  think  that  I  was 
running  after  him.  Besides,  our  fathers  are  not  on  good 
terms,  so  that  I  cannot  make  his  acquaintance.  ...  Ah ! 
Nastia,  do  you  know  what  I'll  do  ?  I  will  dress  myself  up 
as  a  peasant  girl !  " 

"  Exactly  !  Put  on  a  coarse  chemise  and  a  sarafan,  and 
then  go  boldly  to  Tougilovo;  I  will  answer  for  it  that 
Berestoff  will  not  pass  by  without  taking  notice  of  you." 

"  And  I  know  how  to  imitate  the  style  of  speech  of  the 
peasants  about  here.  Ah,  Nastia  1  my  dear  Nastia !  what 
an  excellent  idea  1 " 

And  Liza  went  to  bed,  firmly  resolved  on  putting  her  plan 
into  execution. 

^  Diminutive  of  Praskovia. 

3o6      poushkin's  prose  tales. 

The  next  morning  she  began  to  prepare  for  the  accomplish- 
ment of  her  scheme.  She  sent  to  the  bazaar  and  bought 
some  coarse  linen,  some  blue  nankeen  and  some  copper 
buttons,  and  with  the  help  of  Nastia  she  cut  out  for  herself 
a  chemise  and  sarafan.  She  then  set  all  the  female  servants 
to  work  to  do  the  necessary  sewing,  so  that  by  the  evening 
everything  was  ready.  Liza  tried  on  the  new  costume,  and 
as  she  stood  before  the  mirror,  she  confessed  to  herself  that 
she  had  never  looked  so  charming.  Then  she  practised  her 
part.  As  she  walked  she  made  a  low  bow,  and  then  tossed 
her  head  several  times,  after  the  manner  of  a  china  cat, 
spoke  in  the  peasants'  dialect,  smiled  behind  her  sleeve,  and 
did  everything  to  Nastia's  complete  satisfaction.  One  thing 
only  proved  irksome  to  her :  she  tried  to  walk  barefooted 
across  the  courtyard,  but  the  turf  pricked  her  tender  feet, 
and  she  found  the  stones  and  gravel  unbearable.  Nastia 
immediately  came  to  her  assistance.  She  took  the  measure- 
ment of  Liza's  foot,  ran  to  the  fields  to  find  Trophim  the 
shepherd,  and  ordered  him  to  make  a  pair  of  bast  shoes  of 
the  same  measurement. 

The  next  morning,  almost  before  it  was  dawn,  Liza  was 
already  awake.  Everybody  in  the  house  was  still  asleep. 
Nastia  went  to  the  gate  to  wait  for  the  shepherd.  The 
sound  of  a  horn  was  heard,  and  the  village  flock  defiled  past 
the  manor-house.  Trophim,  on  passing  by  Nastia,  gave  her 
a  small  pair  of  coloured  bast  shoes,  and  received  from  her  a 
half-rouble  in  exchange.  Liza  quietly  dressed  herself  in  the 
peasant's  costume,  whispered  her  instructions  to  Nastia  with 
reference  to  Miss  Jackson,  descended  the  back  staircase 
and  made  her  way  through  the  garden  into  the  field  beyond. 

The  eastern  sky  was  all  aglow,  and  the  golden  lines  of 
clouds  seemed  to  be  awaiting  the  sun,  like  courtiers  await 
their  monarch.  The  bright  sky,  the  freshness  of  the  morn- 
ing, the  dew,  the  light  breeze,  and  the  singing  of  the  birds 


filled  the  heart  of  Liza  with  childish  joy.  The  fear  of 
meeting  some  acquaintance  seemed  to  give  her  wings,  for 
she  flew  rather  than  walked.  But  as  she  approached  the 
wood  which  formed  the  boundary  of  her  father's  estate,  she 
slackened  her  pace.  Here  she  resolved  to  wait  for  Alexei. 
Her  heart  beat  violently,  she  knew  not  why;  but  is  not  the 
fear  which  accompanies  our  youthful  escapades  that  which 
constitutes  their  greatest  charm?  Liza  advanced  into  the 
depth  of  the  wood.  The  deep  murmur  of  the  waving 
branches  seemed  to  welcome  the  young  girl.  Her  gaiety 
vanished.  Little  by  little  she  abandoned  herself  to  sweet 
reveries.  She  thought — but  who  cai;i  say  exactly  what  a 
young  lady  of  seventeen  thinks  of,  alone  in  a  wood,  at  six 
o'clock  of  a  spring  morning  ?  And  so  she  walked  musingly 
along  the  pathway,  which  was  shaded  on  both  sides  by  tall 
trees,  when  suddenly  a  magnificent  hunting  dog  came  bark- 
ing and  bounding  towards  her.  Liza  became  alarmed  and 
cried  out.  But  at  the  same  moment  a  voice  called  out : 
'''•  Tout  beau ^  Sbogar^  id  V  .  .  .  and  a  young  hunter  emerged 
from  behind  a  clump  of  bushes. 

"  Don't  be  afraid,  my  dear,"  said  he  to  Liza :  "  my  dog 
does  not  bite." 

Liza  had  already  recovered  from  her  alarm,  and  she  im- 
jmediately  took  advantage  of  her  opportunity. 
!'     *'But,   sir,"   said   she,   assuming  a  half-frightened,  half- 
jibashful  expression,  '*I  am  so  afraid;  he  looks  so  fierce — he 
might  fly  at  me  again." 

Alexei — for  the  reader  has  already  recognized  him — gazed 
fixedly  at  the  young  peasant-girl. 

"  I  will  accompany  you  if  you  are  afraid,"  said  he  to  her : 
will  you  allow  me  to  walk  along  with  you  ?  " 

**  Who  is  to  hinder  you  ?  "  replied  Liza.     **  Wills  are  free, 
and  the  road  is  open  to  everybody. 

"  Where  do  you  come  from  ?  " 



"  From  Priloutchina ;  I  am  the  daughter  of  Vassili  the 
blacksmith,  and  I  am  going  to  gather  mushrooms."  (Liza 
carried  a  basket  on  her  arm.)  "And  you,  sir?  From 
Tougilovo,  I  have  no  doubt." 

"  Exactly  so,"  replied  Alexei :  **  I  am  the  young  master's 
valet-  de-cham  bre. " 

Alexei  wanted  to  put  himself  on  an  equality  with  her,  but 
Liza  looked  at  him  and  began  to  smile. 

"  That  is  a  fib,"  said  she  :  "  I  am  not  such  a  fool  as  you 
may  think.  I  see  very  well  that  you  are  tlie  young  master 

"Why  do  you  think  so?" 

"  I  think  so  for  a  great  many  reasons." 

"  But " 

"  As  if  it  were  not  possible  to  distinguish  the  master  from 
the  servant !  You  are  not  dressed  like  a  servant,  you  do  not 
speak  like  one,  and  you  address  your  dog  in  a  different  way 
to  us." 

Liza  began  to  please  Alexei  more  and  more.  As  he  was 
not  accustomed  to  standing  upon  ceremony  with  peasant 
girls,  he  wanted  to  embrace  her ;  but  Liza  drew  back  ifrom 
him,  and  suddenly  assumed  such  a  cold  and  severe  look, 
that  Alexei,  although  much  amused,  did  not  venture  to 
renew  the  attempt. 

"  If  you  wish  that  we'  should  remain  good  friends,"  said 
she  with  dignity,  "  be  good  enough  not  to  forget  yourself." 

'*  Who  taught  you  such  wisdom  ?  "  asked  Alexei,  bursting 
into  a  laugh.  "  Can  it  be  my  friend  Nastenka,^  the  chamber- 
maid to  your  young  mistress  ?  See  by  what  paths  enlighten- 
ment becomes  diffused ! " 

Liza  felt  that  she  had  stepped  out  of  her  role,  and  she 
immediately  recovered  herself. 

*  Diminutive  of  Nastia. 


"  Do  you  think,"  said  she,  ^*  that  I  have  never  been  to  the 
manor-house?  Don't  alarm  yourself;  I  have  seen  and  heard 
a  great  many  things.  .  .  .  But,"  continued  she,  "  if  I  talk 
to  you,  I  shall  not  gather  my  mushrooms.  Go  your  way, 
sir,  and  I  will  go  mine.     Pray  excuse  me." 

And  she  was  about  to  move  off,  but  Alexei  seized  hold  of 
her  hand. 

"  What  is  your  name,  my  dear? " 

"  Akoulina,"  replied  Liza,  endeavouring  to  disengage  her 
fingers  from  his  grasp  :  '*  but  let  me  go,  sir ;  it  is  time  for 
me  to  return  home." 

"Well,  my  friend  Akoulina,  I  will  certainly  pay  a  visit  to 
your  father,  Vassili  the  blacksmith." 

"  What  do  you  say?"  replied  Liza  quickly:  "for  Heaven's 
sake,  don't  think  of  doing  such  a  thing  !  If  it  were  known 
at  home  that  I  had  been  talking  to  a  gentleman  alone  in  the 
wood,  I  should  fare  very  badly, — my  father,  Vassili  the 
blacksmith,  would  beat  me  to  death." 

"But  I  really  must  see  you  again." 

"  Well,  then,  I  will  come  here  again  some  time  to  gather 


"  Well,  to-morrow,  if  you  wish  it." 

"  My  dear  Akoulina,  I  would  kiss  you,  but  I  dare  not.  .  .  . 
To-morrow,  then,  at  the  same  time,  isn't  that  so  ?  " 

"Yes,  yes!" 

"  And  you  will  not  deceive  me  ?  " 

"  I  will  not  deceive  you." 

"  Swear  it." 

"  Well,  then,  I  swear  by  Holy  Friday  that  I  will  come." 

The  young  people  separated.  Liza  emerged  from  the 
wood,  crossed  the  field,  stole  into  the  garden  and  hastened 
to  the  place  where  Nastia  awaited  her.  There  she 
changed  her  costume,  replying  absently  to  the  questions  of 


her  impatient  confidante,  and  then  she  repaired  to  the 
parlour.  The  cloth  was  laid,  the  breakfast  was  ready,  and 
Miss  Jackson,  already  powdered  and  laced  up,  so  that  she 
looked  like  a  wine-glass,  was  cutting  thin  slices  of  bread  and 

Her  father  praised  her  for  her  early  walk. 

"  There  is  nothing  so  healthy,"  said  he,  "  as  getting  up  at 

Then  he  cited  several  instances  of  human  longevity, 
which  he  had  derived  from  the  English  journals,  and 
observed  that  all  persons  who  had  lived  to  be  upwards  of  a 
hundred,  abstained  from  brandy  and  rose  at  daybreak, 
winter  and  summer. 

Liza  did  not  listen  to  him.  In  her  thoughts  she  was 
going  over  all  the  circumstances  of  the  meeting  of  that 
morning,  all  the  conversation  of  Akoulina  with  the  young 
hunter,  and  her  conscience  began  to  torment  her.  In  vain 
did  she  try  to  persuade  herself  that  their  conversation  had 
not  gone  beyond  the  bounds  of  propriety,  and  that  the  frolic 
would  be  followed  by  no  serious  consequences — her  con- 
science spoke  louder  than  her  reason.  The  promise  given 
for  the  following  day  troubled  her  more  than  anything  else, 
and  she  almost  felt  resolved  not  to  keep  her  solemn  oath. 
But  then,  might  not  Alexei,  after  waiting  for  her  in  vain, 
make  his  way  to  the  village  and  search  out  the  daughter  of 
Vassili  the  blacksmith,  the  veritable  Akoulina — a  fat,  pock- 
marked peasant  girl — and  so  discover  the  prank  she  had 
played  upon  him  ?  This  thought  frightened  Liza,  and  she 
resolved  to  repair  again  to  the  little  wood  the  next  morning 
in  the  same  disguise  as  at  first. 

On  his  side,  Alexei  was  in  an  ecstasy  of  delight.  All  day 
long  he  thought  of  his  new  acquaintance ;  and  in  his  dreams 
at  night  the  form  of  the  dark-skinned  beauty  appeared 
before  him.  The  morning  had  scarcely  begun  to  dawn,  when 


he  was  already  dressed.  Without  giving  himself  time  to 
load  his  gun,  he  set  out  for  the  fields  with  his  faithful 
Sbogar,  and  hastened  to  the  place  of  the  promised 
rendezvous.  A  half  hour  of  intolerable  waiting  passed  by ; 
at  last  he  caught  a  glimpse  of  a  blue  sarafan  between  the 
bushes,  and  he  rushed  forward  to  meet  his  charming 
Akoulina.  She  smiled  at  the  ecstatic  nature  of  his  thanks, 
but  Alexei  immediately  observed  upon  her  face  traces  of 
sadness  and  uneasiness.  He  wished  to  know  the  cause. 
Liza  confessed  to  him  that  her  act  seemed  to  her  very 
frivolous,  that  she  repented  of  it,  that  this  time  she  did  not 
wish  to  break  her  promised  word,  but  that  this  meeting 
would  be  the  last,  and  she  therefore  entreated  him  to  break 
off  an  acquaintanceship  which  could  not  lead  to  any  good. 

All  this,  of  course,  was  expressed  in  the  language  of  a 
peasant ;  but  such  thoughts  and  sentiments,  so  unusual  in  a 
simple  girl  of  the  lower  class,  struck  Alexei  with  astonish- 
ment. He  employed  all  his  eloquence  to  divert  Akoulina 
from  her  purpose ;  he  assured  her  that  his  intentions  were 
honourable,  promised  her  that  he  would  never  give  her  cause 
to  repent,  that  he  would  obey  her  in  everything,  and 
earnestly  entreated  her  not  to  deprive  him  of  the  joy  of 
seeing  her  alone,  if  only  once  a  day,  or  even  only  twice  a 
week.  He  spoke  the  language  of  true  passion,  and  at  that 
moment  he  was  really  in  love.  Liza  listened  to  him  in 

"  Give  me  your  word,"  said  she  at  last,  "  that  you  will 
never  come  to  the  village  in  search  of  me,  and  that  you  will 
never  seek  a  meeting  with  me  except  those  that  I  shall 
appoint  myself." 

Alexei  swore  by  Holy  Friday,  but  she  stopped  him  with  a 

"  I  do  not  want  you  to  swear^"  said  she  j  "  your  mer? 
word  is  sufficient." 

312  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

After  that  they  began  to  converse  together  in  a  friendly 
manner,  strolling  about  the  wood,  until  Liza  said  to  him  ; 

**  It  is  time  for  me  to  return  home." 

They  separated,  and  when  Alexei  was  left  alone,  he  could 
not  understand  how,  in  two  interviews,  a  simple  peasant  girl 
had  succeeded  in  acquiring  such  influence  over  him.  His 
relations  with  Akoulina  had  for  him  all  the  charm  of 
novelty,  and  although  the  injunctions  of  the  strange  young 
girl  appeared  to  him  to  be  very  severe,  the  thought  of 
breaking  his  word  never  once  entered  his  mind.  The  fact 
was  that  Alexei,  in  spite  of  his  fatal  ring,  his  mysterious 
correspondence  and  his  gloomy  disenchantment,  was  a  good 
and  impulsive  young  fellow,  with  a  pure  heart  capable  of 
enjoying  the  pleasures  of  innocence. 

Were  I  to  listen  to  my  own  wishes  only,  I  would  here 
enter  into  a  minute  description  of  the  interviews  of  the 
young  people,  of  their  growing  passion  for  each  other,  their 
confidences,  occupations  and  conversations;  but  I  know 
that  the  greater  part  of  my  readers  would  not  share  my 
satisfaction.  Such  details  are  usually  considered  tedious 
and  uninteresting,  and  therefore  I  will  omit  them,  merely 
observing,  that  before  two  months  had  elapsed,  Alexei  was 
already  hopelessly  in  love,  and  Liza  equally  so,  though  less 
demonstrative  in  revealing  the  fact.  Both  were  happy 
in  the  present  and  troubled  themselves  little  about  the 

The  thought  of  indissoluble  ties  frequently  passed  through 
their  minds,  but  never  had  they  spoken  to  each  other  about 
the  matter.  The  reason  was  plain :  Alexei,  however  much 
attached  he  might  be  to  his  lovely  Akoulina,  could  not 
forget  the  distance  that  separated  him  from  the  poor  peasant 
girl ;  while  Liza,  knowing  the  hatred  that  existed  between 
their  parents,  did  not  dare  to  hope  for  a  mutual  reconcilia- 
tion.    Moreover,  her  self-love  was  stimulated  in  secret  by 


tlie  obscure  and  romantic  hope  of  seeing  at  last  the  proprietor 
of  Tougilovo  at  the  feet  of  the  blacksmith's  daughter  of 
Priloutchina.  All  at  once  an  important  event  occurred 
which  threatened  to  interrupt  their  mutual  relations. 

One  bright  cold  morning — such  a  morning  as  is  very 
common  during  our  Russian  autumn — Ivan  Petrovitch 
Berestoff  went  out  for  a  ride  on  horseback,  taking  with  him 
three  pairs  of  hunting  dogs,  a  gamekeeper  and  several 
stable-boys  with  clappers.  At  the  same  time,  Gregory 
Ivanovitch  Mouromsky,  seduced  by  the  beautiful  weather, 
ordered  his  bob- tailed  mare  to  be  saddled,  and  started  out 
to  visit  his  domains  cultivated  in  the  English  style.  On 
approaching  the  wood,  he  perceived  his  neighbour,  sitting 
proudly  on  his  horse,  in  his  cloak  lined  with  fox-skin,  wait- 
ing for  a  hare  which  his  followers,  with  loud  cries  and  the 
rattling  of  their  clappers,  had  started  out  of  a  thicket.  If 
Gregory  Ivanovitch  had  foreseen  this  meeting,  he  would 
certainly  have  proceeded  in  another  direction,  but  he  came 
upon  Berestoff  so  unexpectedly,  that  he  suddenly  found 
himself  no  farther  than  the  distance  of  a  pistol-shot  away 
from  him.  There  was  no  help  for  it :  Mouromsky,  like  a 
civilized  European,  rode  forward  towards  his  adversary  and 
politely  saluted  him.  Berestoff  returned  the  salute  with  the 
characteristic  grace  of  a  chained  bear,  who  salutes  the  public 
in  obedience  to  the  order  of  his  master. 

At  that  moment  the  hare  darted  out  of  the  wood  and 
started  off  across  the  field.  Berestoff  and  the  gamekeeper 
raised  4  loud  shout,  let  the  dogs  loose,  and  then  galloped 
off  in-  pursuit.  Mouromsky's  horse,  not  being  accustomed 
to  hunting,  took  fright  and  bolted.  Mouromsky,  who 
prided  himself  on  being  a  good  horseman,  gave  it  full  rein, 
and  inwardly  rejoiced  at  the  incident  which  delivered  him 
from  a  disagreeable  companion.  But  the  horse,  reaching  a 
ravine  which  it  had  not  previously  noticed,  suddenly  sprang 

314  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

to  one  side,  and  Mouromsky  was  thrown  from  the  saddle. 
Striking  the  frozen  ground  with  considerable  force,  he  lay 
there  cursing  his  bob-tailed  mare,  which,  as  if  recovering 
from  its  fright,  had  suddenly  come  to  a  standstill  as  soon  as 
it  felt  that  it  was  without  a  rider. 

Ivan  Petrovitch  hastened  towards  him  and  inquired  if  he 
had  injured  himself.  In  the  meantime  the  gamekeeper  had 
secured  the  guilty  horse,  which  he  now  led  forward  by  the 
bridle.  He  helped  Mouromsky  into  the  saddle,  and 
Berestoff  invited  him  to  his  hoiise.  Mouromsky  could  not 
refuse  the  invitation,  for  he  felt  indebted  to  him ;  and  so 
Berestoff  returned  home,  covered  with  glory  for  having 
hunted  down  a  hare  and  for  bringing  with  him  his  adversary 
wounded  and  almost  a  prisoner  of  war. 

The  two  neighbours  took  breakfast  together  and  con- 
versed with  each  other  in  a  very  friendly  manner.  Mou- 
romsky requested  Berestoff  to  lend  him  a  droshky^  for  he 
was  obliged  to  confess  that,  owing  to  his  bruises,  he  was  not 
in  a  condition  to  return  home  on  horseback.  Berestoff  con- 
ducted him  to  the  steps,  and  Mouromsky  did  not  take  leave 
of  him  until  he  had  obtained  a  promise  from  him  that  he 
would  come  the  next  day  in  company  with  Alexei  Ivanovitch, 
and  dine  in  a  friendly  way  at  Priloutchina.  In  this  way  was 
a  deeply-rooted  enmity  of  long  standing  apparently  brought 
to  an  end  by  the  skittishness  of  a  bob-tailed  mare. 

Liza  ran  forward  to  meet  Gregory  Ivanovitch. 

"What  does  this  mean,  papa?"  said  she  with  astonish- 
ment. "  Why  are  you  walking  lame  ?  Where  is  your  horse  ? 
Whose  is  this  droshky  ?  " 

"You  will  never  guess,  my  dear,"  replied  Gregory 
Ivanovitch ;  and  then  he  related  to  her  everything  that  had 

Liza  could  not  believe  her  ears.  Without  giving  her  time 
tp  collect  herself,  Gregory  Ivanovitch  then  went  on  to  in- 


form  her  that  the  two  Berestoffs — father  and  son — would 
dine  with  them  on  the  following  day. 

"  What  do  you  say  ?  "  she  exclaimed,  turning  pale.  "  The 
Berestoffs,  father  and  son,  will  dine  with  us  to-morrow  !  No, 
papa,  you  can  do  as  you  please,  but  I  shall  not  show 

"  Have  you  taken  leave  of  your  senses  ? "  replied  her 
father.  "  Since  when  have  you  been  so  bashful  ?  Or  do  you 
cherish  an  hereditary  hatred  towards  him  like  a  heroine  of 
romance?    Enough,  do  not  act  the  fool." 

"No,  papa,  not  for  anything  in  the  world,  not  for  any 
treasure  would  I  appear  before  the  Berestoffs." 

Gregory  Ivanovitch  shrugged  his  shoulders,  and  did  not 
dispute  with  her  any  further,  for  he  knew  that  by  contradic- 
tion he  would  obtain  nothing  from  her.  He  therefore  went 
to  rest  himself  after  his  remarkable  ride. 

Lizaveta  Gregorievna  repaired  to  her  room  and  sum- 
nnioned  Nastia.  They  both  conversed  together  for  a  long 
time  about  the  impending  visit.  What  would  Alexei  think 
if,  in  the  well-bred  young  lady,  he  recognized  his  Akoulina  ? 
What  opinion  would  he  have  of  her  conduct,  of  her  manners, 
of  her  good  sense  ?  On  the  other  hand,  Liza  wished  very 
much  to  see  what  impression  would  be  produced  upon  him 
by  a  meeting  so  unexpected.  .  .  .  Suddenly  an  idea  flashed 
through  her  mind.  She  communicated  it  to  Nastia ;  both 
felt  delighted  with  it,  and  they  resolved  to  carry  it  into 

The  next  day  at  breakfast,  Gregory  Ivanovitch  asked  his 
daughter  if  she  still  intended  to  avoid  the  Berestoffs. 

"  Papa,"  replied  Liza,  "  I  will  receive  them  if  you  wish  it, 
but  on  one  condition,  and  that  is,  that  however  I  may 
appear  before  them,  or  whatever  I  may  do,  you  will  not  be 
angry  with  me,  or  show  the  least  sign  of  astonishment  qj 


"Some  new  freak!"  said  Gregory  Ivanovitch,  laughing. 
"  Very  well,  very  well,  I  agree  ;  do  what  you  like,  my  dark- 
eyed  romp." 

With  these  words  he  kissed  her  on  the  forehead,  and 
Liza  ran  off  to  put  her  plan  into  execution. 

At  two  o'clock  precisely,  a  Russian  caliche,  drawn  by  six 
horses,  entered  the  courtyard  and  rounded  the  lawn.  The 
elder  Berestoff  mounted  the  steps  with  the  assistance  of 
two  lackeys  in  the  Mouromsky  livery.  His  son  came  after 
him  on  horseback,  and  both  entered  together  into  the 
dining-room,  where  the  table  was  already  laid.  Mouromsky 
received  his  neighbours  in  the  most  gracious  manner,  pro- 
posed to  them  to  inspect  his  garden  and  park  before  dinner, 
and  conducted  them  along  paths  carefully  kept  and 
gravelled.  The  elder  Berestoff  inwardly  deplored  the  time 
and  labour  wasted  in  such  useless  fancies,  but  he  held  his 
tongue  out  of  politeness.  His  son  shared  neither  the  dis- 
approbation of  the  economical  landowner,  nor  the  en- 
thusiasm of  the  vain-glorious  Anglomaniac,  but  waited  with 
impatience  for  the  appearance  of  his  host's  daughter,  of 
whom  he  had  heard  a  great  deal ;  and  although  his  heart, 
as  we  know,  was  already  engaged,  youthful  beauty  always 
had  a  claim  upon  his  imagination. 

Returning  to  the  parlour,  they  all  three  sat  down ;  andj 
while  the  old  men  recalled  their  young  days,  and  related^ 
anecdotes  of  their  respective  careers,  Alexei  considered  inj 
his  mind  what  role  he  should  play  in  the  presence  of  Liza.i 
He  came  to  the  conclusion  that  an  air  of  cold  indifference 
would  be  the  most  becoming  under  the  circumstances,  and. 
he  prepared  to  act  accordingly.  The  door  opened;  he] 
turned  his  head  with  such  indifference,  with  such  haughty] 
carelessness,  that  the  heart  of  the  most  inveterate  coquette 
would  inevitably  have  shuddered.  Unfortunately,  instead 
of  Liza^  it  was  old  Miss  Jackson,  who,  painted  and  be- 


decked,  entered  the  room  with  downcast  eyes  and  with  a 
low  bow,  so  that  Alexei's  dignified  military  salute  was  lost 
upon  her.  He  had  not  succeeded  in  recovering  from  his 
confusion,  when  the  door  opened  again,  and  this  time  it 
was  Liza  herself  who  entered. 

All  rose ;  her  father  was  just  beginning  to  introduce  his 
guests,  when  suddenly  he  stopped  short  and  bit  his  lips.  .  .  . 
Liza,  his  dark-complexioned  Liza,  was  painted  white  up  to 
the  ears,  and  was  more  bedizened  than  even  Miss  Jackson 
herself;  false  curls,  much  lighter  than  her  own  hair,  covered 
her  bead  like  the  perruque  of  Louis  the  Fourteenth  ;  her 
sleeves  ci  IHmbecile  stood  out  like  the  hooped  skirts  of 
Madame  de  Pompadour;  her  figure  was  pinched  in  like 
the  letter  X,  and  all  her  mother's  jewels,  which  had  not 
yet  found  their  way  to  the  pawnbroker's,  shone  upon  her 
fingers,  her  neck  and  in  her  ears. 

Alexei  could  not  possibly  recognize  his  Akoulina  in  the 
grotesque  and  brilliant  young  lady.  His  father  kissed  her 
hand,  and  he  f'ollowed  his  example,  though  much  against 
his  will ;  when  he  touched  her  little  white  fingers,  it  seemed 
to  him  that  they  trembled.  In  the  meantime  he  succeeded 
in  catching  a  glimpse  of  her  little  foot,  intentionally  ad- 
vanced and  set  off  to  advantage  by  the-  most  coquettish  shoe 
imaginable.  This  reconciled  him  somewhat  to  the  rest 
of  her  toilette.  As  for  the  paint  and  powder,  it  must 
be  confessed  that,  in  the  simplicity  of  his  heart,  he  had  not 
noticed  them  at  the  first  glance,  and  afterwards  had  no  sus 
picion  of  them.  Gregory  Ivanovitch  remembered  his 
promise,  and  endeavoured  not  to  show  any  astonishment ; 
but  his  daughter's  freak  seemed  to  him  so  amusing,  that  he 
could  scarcely  contain  himself.  But  the  person  who  felt  no 
inclination  to  laugh  was  the  affected  English  governess. 
She  had  a  shrewd  suspicion  that  the  paint  and  powder  had 
been  extracted  from  her  chest  of  drawers,  and  the  deep 


flush  of  anger  was  distinctly  visible  beneath  the  artificial 
whiteness  of  her  face.  She  darted  angry  glances  at  the 
young  madcap,  who,  reserving  her  explanations  for  another 
time,  pretended  that  she  did  not  notice  them. 

They  sat  down  to  table.  Alexei  continued  to  play  his 
role  of  assumed  indifference  and  absence  of  mind.  Liza 
put  on  an  air  of  affectation,  spoke  through  her  teeth, 
and  only  in  French.  Her  father  kept  constantly  looking  at 
her,  not  understanding  her  aim,  but  finding  it  all  exceedingly 
amusing.  The  English  governess  fumed  with  rage  and 
said  not  a  word.  Ivan  Petrovitch  alone  seemed  at 
home :  he  ate  like  two,  drank  heavily,  laughed  at  his 
own  jokes,  and  grew  more  talkative,  and  hilarious  at  every 

At  last  they  all  rose  up  from  the  table;  the  guests 
took  their  departure,  and  Gregory  Ivanovitch  gave  free 
vent  to  his  laughter  and  to  his  interrogations.    ^ 

"  What  put  the  idea  into  your  head  of  acting  the  fool  like 
that  with  them  ? "  he  said  to  Liza.  "  But  do  you  know 
what?  The  paint  suits  you  admirably.  I  do  not  wish  to 
fathom  the  mysteries  of  a  lady's  toilette,  but  if  I  were 
in  your  place,  I  would  very  soon  begin  to  paint ;  not 
too  much,  of  course,  but  just  a  little." 

Liza  was  enchanted  with  the  success  of  her  stratagem, 
She  embraced  her  father,  promised  him  that  she  would  co 
sider  his  advice,  and  then  hastened  to  conciliate  the  indig- 
nant Miss  Jackson,  who,  with  great  reluctance  consented  t 
open  the  door  and  listen  to  her  explanations.     Liza 
ashamed  to  appear  before    strangers  with  her  dark  com-l 

plexion ;  she  had  not  dared  to  ask she  felt  sure  that 

dear,  good  Miss  Jackson  would  pardon  her,  etc.,  etc.    Misi 
Jackson,  feeling  convinced  that  Liza  had  not  wished  to  makej 
her  a  laughing-stock  by  imitating  her,  calmed  down,  kissed' 
her,  and  as  4  token  of  recpociUation,  raacje  her  «i  present  q: 



a  small  pot  of  English  paint,  which  Liza  accepted  with  every 
appearance  of  sincere  gratitude. 

The  reader  will  readily  imagine  that  Liza  lost  no  time  in 
repairing  to  the  rendezvous  in  the  little  wood  the  n^xt 

"  You  were  at  our  master's  yesterday,"  she  said  at  once  to 
Alexei :  *'  what  do  you  think  of  our  young  mistress  ?  " 

Alexei  replied  that  he  had  not  observed  her. 

"  That's  a  pity  ! "  replied  Liza. 

"  Why  so  ?  "  asked  Alexei. 

*'  Because  I  wanted  to  ask  you  if  it  is  true  what  they 
say " 

"What  do  they  say?" 

*'  Is  it  true,  as  they  say,  that  I  am  very  much  like  her?" 

"  What  nonsense  !  She  is  a  perfect  monstrosity  com- 
pared with  you." 

^^Oh,  sir,  it  is  very  wrong  of  you  to  speak  like  that.  Our 
young  mistress  is  so  fair  and  so  stylish  1  How  could  I  be 
compared  with  her  ! " 

Alexei  vowed  to  her  that  she  was  more  beautiful  than  all 
the  fair  young  ladies  in  creation,  and  in  order  to  pacify  her 
completely,  he  began  to  describe  her  mistress  in  such 
comical  terms,  that  Liza  laughed  heartily. 

"  But,"  said  she  with  a  sigh,  "  even  though  our  young  mis- 
tress may  be  ridiculous,  I  am  but  a  poor  ignorant  thing  in 
comparison  with  her." 

"  Oh  ! "  said  Alexei ;  "  is  that  anything  to  break  your  heart 
about  ?  If  you  wish  it,  I  will  soon  teach  you  to  read  and 

'*  Yes,  indeed,"  said  Liza,  *' why  should  I  not  try  ?  " 

'*  Very  well,  my  dear ;  we  will  commence  at  once." 

They  sat  down.  Alexei  drew  from  his  pocket  a  pencil 
and  note-book,  and  Akoulina  learnt  the  alphabet  with 
astonishing  rapidity.     Alexei  could  not  sufficiently  admire 


her  intelligence.  The  following  morning  she  wished  to  try 
to  write.  At  first  the  pencil  refused  to  obey  her,  but  after  a 
few  minutes  she  was  able  to  trace  the  letters  with  tolerable 

"  It  is  really  wonderful ! "  said  Alexei.  **  Our  method 
certainly  produces  quicker  results  than  the  Lancaster 
system."  ^ 

And  indeed,  at  the  third  lesson  Akoulina  began  to  spell 
through  "  Nathalie  the  Boyard's  Daughter,"  interrupting 
her  reading  by  observations  which  really  filled  Alexei  with 
astonishment,  and  she  filled  a  whole  sheet  of  paper  with 
aphorisms  drawn  from  the  same  story. 

A  week  went  by,  and  a  correspondence  was  established 
between  them.  Their  letter-box  was  the  hollow  of  an  old 
oak-tree,  and  Nastia  acted  as  their  messenger.  Thither 
Alexei  carried  his  letters  written  in  a  bold  round  hand,  and 
there  he  found  on  plain  blue  paper  the  delicately-traced 
strokes  of  his  beloved.  Akoulina  perceptibly  began  to 
acquire  an  elegant  style  of  expression,  and  her  mental 
faculties  commenced  to  develop  themselves  with  astonishing 

Meanwhile,  the  recently-formed  acquaintance  between 
Ivan  Petrovitch  Berestoff  and  Gregory  Ivanovitch  Mourom- 
sky  soon  became  transformed  into  a  sincere  friendship, 
under  the  following  circumstances.  Mouromsky  frequently 
reflected  that,  on  the  death  of  Ivan  Petrovitch,  all  his  pos- 
sessions would  pass  into  the  hands  of  Alexei  Ivanovitch,  in 
which  case  the  latter  would  be  one  of  the  wealthiest  landed 
proprietors  in  the  government,  and  there  would  be  nothing 
to  hinder  him  from  marrying  Liza.  The  elder  Berestoff,  on 
his  side,  although  recognizing  in  his  neighbour  a  certain 
extravagance  (or,  as  he  termed  it,  English  folly),  was  per- 

^  An  allusion  to  the  system  of  education  introduced  into  England  by 
Joseph  Lancaster  at  the  commencement  of  the  present  century. 


fectly  ready  to  admit  that  he  possessed  many  excellent 
qualities,  as  for  example,  his  rare  tact.  Gregory  Ivanovitch 
was  closely  related  to  Count  Pronsky,  a  man  of  distinction 
and  of  great  influence.  The  Count  could  be  of  great 
service  to  Alexei,  and  Mouromsky  (so  thought  Ivan  Petro- 
vitch)  would  doubtless  rejoice  to  see  his  daughter  marry  so 
advantageously.  By  dint  of  constantly  dwelling  upon  this 
idea,  the  two  old  men  came  at  last  to  communicate  their 
thoughts  to  one  another.  They  embraced  each  other,  both 
promised  to  do  their  best  to  arrange  the  matter,  and  they 
immediately  set  to  work,  each  on  his  own  side.  Mouromsky 
foresaw  that  he  would  have  some  difficulty  in  persuading  his 
Betsy  to  become  more  intimately  acquainted  with  Alexei, 
whom  she  had  not  seen  since  the  memorable  dinner.  It 
seemed  to  him  that  they  had  not  been  particularly  well 
pleased  with  each  other ;  at  least  Alexei  had  not  paid  any 
further  visits  to  Priloutchina,  and  Liza  had  retired  to  her 
room  every  tira^  that  Ivan  Petrovitch  had  honoured  them 
with  a  visit.  '^ 

"  But,"  thought  Gregory  Ivanovitch,  "  if  Alexei  came  to 
see  us  every  day,  Betsy  could  not  help  falling  in  love  with 
him.  That  is  the  natural  order  of  things.  Time  will  settle 

Ivan  Petrovitch  was  no  less  uneasy  about  the  success  of 
his  designs.  That  same  evening  he  summoned  his  son  into 
his  cabinet,  lit  his  pipe,  and,  after  a  long  pause,  said  : 

"Well,  Alesha,^  what  do  you  think  about  doing?  You 
have  not  said  anything  for  a  long  time  about  the  military 
service.  Or  has  the  Hussar  uniform  lost  its  charm  for 

"No,  father,"  replied  Alexei  respectfully;  "but  I  see 
that  you  do  not  like  the  idea  of  my  entering  the  Hussars, 
and  it  is  my  duty  to  obey  you." 

^  Diminutive  of  Alexei  (Alexis). 


"  Good,"  replied  Ivan  Petrovitch ;  "  I  see  that  you  are  an 
obedient  son;  that  is  very  consoling  to  me.  ...  On  my 
side,  I  do  not  wish  to  compel  you  j  I  do  not  want  to  force 
you  to  enter  ...  at  once  .  .  .  into  the  civil  service,  but, 
in  the  meanwhile,  I  intend  you  to  get  married." 

*'  To  whom,  father  ?  "  asked  Alexei  in  astonishment. 

"To  Lizaveta  Gregorievna  Mouromsky,"  replied  Ivan 
Petrovitch.     "She  is  a  charming  bride,  is  she  not?" 

"  Father,  I  have  not  thought  of  marriage  yet." 

"  You  have  not  thought  of  it,  and  therefore  I  have  thought 
of  it  for  you." 

"  As  you  please,  but  I  do  not  care  for  Liza  Mouromsky 
in  the  least." 

"  You  will  get  to  like  her  afterwards.  Love  comes  with 

"  I  do  not  feel  capable  of  making  her  happy." 

"Do  not  distress  yourself  about  making  her  happy. 
What  ?  Is  this  how  you  respect  your  father's  wish  ?  Very 

"  As  you  please.  I  do  not  wish  to  marry,  and  I  will  not 

"  You  will  marry,  or  I  will  curse  you ;  and  as  for  my 
possessions,  as  true  as  God  is  holy,  I  will  sell  them  and 
squander  the  money,  and  not  leave  you  a  farthing.  I  will 
give  you  three  days  to  think  about  the  matter ;  and  in  the 
meantime,  don't  show  yourself  in  my  sight." 

Alexei  knew  that  when  his  father  once  took  an  idea  into 
his  head,  a  nail  even  would  not  drive  it  out,  as  Taras 
Skotinin^  says  in  the  comedy.  But  Alexei  took  after  his 
father,  and  was  just  as  head-strong  as  he  was.  He  went  to 
his  room  and  began  to  reflect  upon  the  limits  of  paternal 
authority;     Then  his  thoughts  reverted  to  Lizaveta  Gregori- 

*  A  character  in  *•  Nedorosl,"  a  comedy  by  Denis  Von  Vizin. 



evna,  to  his  father's  solemn  vow  to  make  him  a  beggar,  and 
last  of  all  to  Akoulina.  For  the  first  time  he  saw  clearly 
that  he  was  passionately  in  love  with  her;  the  romantic 
idea  of  marrying  a  peasant  girl  and  of  living  by  the  labour 
of  their  hands  came  into  his'head,  and  the  more  he  thought 
of  such  a  decisive  step,  the  more  reasonable  did  it  seem  to 
him.  For  some  time  the  interviews  in  the  wood  had  ceased 
on  account  of  the  rainy  weather.  He  wrote  to  Akoulina 
a  letter  in  his  most  legible  handwriting,  informing  her  of  the 
misfortune  that  threatened  them,  and  offering  her  his  hand. 
He  took  the  letter  at  once  to  the  post-office  in  the  wood, 
and  then  went  to  bed,  well  satisfied  with  himself. 

The  next  day  Alexei,  still  firm  in  his  resolution,  rode  over 
early  in  the  morning  to  visit  Mouromsky,  in  order  to  explain 
matters  frankly  to  him.  He  hoped  to  excite  his  generosity 
and  win  him  over  to  his  side. 

"Is  Gregory  Ivanovitch  at  home?"  asked  he,  stopping 
his  horse  in  front  of  the  steps  of  the  Priloutchina  mansion. 

"No,"  repli^  the  servant;  '^Gregory  Ivanovitch  rode 
out  early  this  morning,  and  has  not  yet  returned." 

"  How  annoying  ! "  thought  Alexei.  ..."  Is  Lizaveta 
Gregorievna  at  home,  then  ?  "  he  asked. 

"Yes,  sir." 

Alexei  sprang  from  his  horse,  gave  the  reins  to  the  lackey, 
and  entered  without  being  announced. 

"  Everything  is  now  going  to  be  decided,"  thought  he, 
directing  his  steps  towards  the  parlour:  "I  will  explain 
everything  to  Lizaveta  herself." 

He  entered  .  .  .  and  then  stood  still  as  if  petrified ! 
Liza  .  .  .  no  .  .  .  Akoulina,  dear,  dark-haired  Akoulina, 
no  longer  in  a  sarafan^  but  in  a  white  morning  robe,  was 
sitting  in  front  of  the  window,  reading  his  letter ;  she  was  so 
occupied  that  she  had  not  heard  him  enter. 

Alexei  could  not  restrain  an  exclamation  of  joy.     Liza 


324  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

started,  raised  her  head,  uttered  a  cry,  and  wished  to  fly 
from  the  room.  But  he  threw  himself  before  her  and  held 
her  back. 

"  Akoulina  !  Akoulina  ! " 

Liza  endeavoured  to  liberate  herself  from  his  grasp. 

^^ Mais  laissez-moi  done,  Monsieur/  .  .  .  Mais  ttes-vous 
fouV  she  said,  twisting  herself  round. 

** Akoulina!  my  dear  Akoulina!"  he  repeated,  kissing 
her  hand. 

Miss  Jackson,  a  witness  of  this  scene,  knew  not  what  to 
think  of  it.  At  that  moment  the  door  opened,  and  Gregory 
Ivanovitch  entered  the  room. 

"  Ah  !  ah  ! "  said  Mouromsky ;  "  but  it  seems  that  you 
have  already  arranged  matters  between  you." 

The  reader  will  spare  me  the  unnecessary  obligation  of 
describing  the  denouement 





WE  were  stationed  in  the  little  town  of  N .  The 
life  of  an  officer  in  the  army  is  well  known.  In  the 
morning,  drill  and  the  riding-school ;  dinner  with  the  Colonel 
or  at  a  Jewish  restaurant ;  in  the  evening,  punch  and  cards. 

In  N there  was  not  one  open  house,  not   a  single 

marriageable  girl.  We  used  to  meet  in  each  other's 
rooms,  where,  except  our  uniforms,  we  never  saw  any- 

One  civilian  only  was  admitted  into  our  society.  He  was 
about  thirty-five  years  of  age,  and  therefore  we  looked  upon 
him  as  an  old  fellow.  His  experience  gave  him  great 
advantage  over  us,  and  his  habitual  taciturnity,  stern  dis- 
position and  caustic  tongue  produced  a  deep  impression 
upon  our  young  minds.  Some  mystery  surrounded  his 
existence;  he  had  the  appearance  of  a  Russian,  although 
his  name  was  a  foreign  one.  He  had  formerly  served  in 
the  Hussars,  and  with  distinction.  Nobody  knew  the  cause 
that  had  induced  him  to  retire  from  the  service  and  settle  in 
a  wretched  little  village,  where  he  lived  poorly  and,  at  the 
same  time,  extravagantly.  He  always  went  on  foot,  and 
constantly  wore  a  shabby  black  overcoat,  but  the  officers  of 
our  regiment  were  ever  welcome  at  his  table.  His  dinners, 
it  is  true,  never  consisted  of  more  than  two  or  three  dishes, 
prepared  by  a  retired  soldier,  but  the  champagne  flowed  like 

328      poushkin's  prose  tales. 

water.  Nobody  knew  what  his  circumstances  were,  or  what 
his  income  was,  and  nobody  dared  to  question  him  about 
them.  He  had  a  collection  of  books,  consisting  chiefly  of 
works  on  military  matters  and  a  few  novels.  He  willingly 
lent  them  to  us  to  read,  and  never  asked  for  them  back ;  on 
the  other  hand,  he  never  returned  to  the  owner  the  books 
that  were  lent  to  him.  His  principal  amusement  was  shoot- 
ing with  a  pistol.  The  walls  of  his  room  were  riddled  with 
bullets,  and  were  as  full  of  holes  as  a  honey-comb.  A  rich 
collection  of  pistols  was  the  only  luxury  in  the  humble 
cottage  where  he  lived.  The  skill  which  he  had  acquired 
with  his  favourite  weapon  was  simply  incredible ;  and  if  he 
had  offered  to  shoot  a  pear  off  somebody's  forage-cap,  not  a 
man  in  our  regiment  would  have  hesitated  to  place  the 
object  upon  his  head. 

Our  conversation  often  turned  upon  duels.  Silvio — so  1 
will  call  him — never  joined  in  it.  When  asked  if  he  had 
ever  fought,  he  drily  replied  that  he  had ;  but  he  entered 
into  no  particulars,  and  it  was  evident  that  such  questions 
were  not  to  his  liking.  We  came  to  the  conclusion  that  he 
had  upon  his  conscience  the  memory  of  some  unhappy 
victim  of  his  terrible  skill.  Moreover,  it  never  entered  into 
the  head  of  any  of  us  to  suspect  him  of  anything  like 
cowardice.  There  are  persons  whose  mere  look  is  sufficient 
to  repel  such  a  suspicion.  But  an  unexpected  incident 
occurred  which  astounded  us  all. 

One  day,  about  ten  of  our  officers  dined  with  Silvio. 
They  drank  as  usual,  that  is  to  say,  a  great  deal.  After 
dinner  we  asked  our  host  to  hold  the  bank  for  a  game  at 
faro.  For  a  long  time  he  refused,  for  he  hardly  ever  played, 
but  at  last  he  ordered  cards  to  be  brought,  placed  half  a 
hundred  ducats  upon  the  table,  and  sat  down  to  deal.  We 
took  our  places  round  him,  and  the  play  began.  It  was 
Silvio's  custom  to  preserve  a  complete  silence  when  playing. 

THE  SHOT.  329 

He  never  disputed,  and  never  entered  into  explanations.  If 
the  punter  made  a  mistake  in  calculating,  he  immediately 
paid  him  the  difference  or  noted  down  the  surplus.  We 
were  acquainted  with  this  habit  of  his,  and  we  always  allowed 
him  to  have  his  own  way ;  but  among  us  on  this  occasion 
was  an  officer  who  had  only  recently  been  transferred  to  our 
regiment.  During  the  course  of  the  game,  this  officer 
absently  scored  one  point  too  many.  Silvio  took  the 
chalk  and  noted  down  the  correct  account  according  to 
his  usual  custom.  The  officer,  thinking  that  he  had  inade  a 
mistake,  began  to  enter  into  explanations.  Silvio  continued 
dealing  in  silence.  The  officer,  losing  patience,  took  the 
brush  and  rubbed  out  what  he  considered  was  wrong.  Silvio 
took  the  chalk  and  corrected  the  score  again.  The  officer, 
heated  with  wine,  play,  and  the  laughter  of  his  comrades, 
considered  himself  grossly  insulted,  and  in  his  rage  he 
seized  a  brass  candlestick  from  the  table,  and  hurled  it  at 
Silvio,  who  barely  succeeded  in  avoiding  the  missile.  We 
were  filled  With  consternation.  Silvio  rose,  white  with  rage, 
and  with  gleaming  eyes,  said  : 

"  My  dear  sir,  have  the  goodness  to  withdraw,  and  thank 
God  that  this  has  happened  in  my  house." 

None  of  us  entertained  the  slightest  doubt  as  to  what  the 
result  would  be,  and  we  already  looked  upon  our  new  com- 
rade as  a  dead  man.  The  officer  withdrew,  saying  that  he 
was  ready  to  -answer  for  his  offence  in  whatever  way  the 
banker  liked.  The  play  went  on  for  a  few  minutes  longer, 
but  feeling  that  our  host  was  no  longer  interested  in  the 
game,  we  withdrew  one  after  the  other,  and  repaired  to  our 
respective  quarters,  after  having  exchanged  a  few  words 
upon  the  probability  of  there  soon  being  a  vacancy  in  the 

The  next  day,  at  the  riding-school,  we  were  already  asking 
each  other  if  the  poor  lieutenant  was  still  alive,  when  he  him- 

330  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

self  appeared  among  us.  We  put  the  same  question  to  him, 
and  he  replied  that  he  had  not  yet  heard  from  Silvio.  This 
astonished  us.  We  went  to  Silvio's  house  and  found  him  in 
the  courtyard  shooting  bullet  after  bullet  into  an  ace  pasted 
upon  the  gate.  He  received  us  as  usual,  but  did  not  utter 
a  word  about  the  event  of  the  previous  evening.  Three 
days  passed,  and  the  lieutenant  was  still  alive.  We  asked 
each  other  in  astonishment :  "  Can  it  be  possible  that  Silvio 
is  not  going  to  fight  ?  " 

Silvio  did  not  fight.  He  was  satisfied  with  a  very  lame 
explanation,  and  became  reconciled  to  his  assailant. 

This  lowered  him  very  much  in  the  opinion  of  all  our 
young  fellows.  Want  of  courage  is  the  last  thing  to  be  par- 
doned by  young  men,  wjio  usually  look  upon  bravery  as  the 
chief  of  all  human  virtues,  and  the  excuse  for  every  possible 
fault.  But,  by  degrees,  everything  became  forgotten,  and 
Silvio  regained  his  former  influence. 

I  alone  could  not  approach  him  on  the  old  footing.  Being 
endowed  by  nature  with  a  romantic  imagination,  I  had  be- 
come attached  more  than  all  the  others  to  the  man  whose 
life  was  an  enigma,  and  who  seemed  to  me  tjie  hero  of  some 
mysterious  drama.  He  was  fond  of  me ;  at  least,  with  me 
alone  did  he  drop  his  customary  sarcastic  tone,  and  converse 
on  different  subjects  in  a  simple  and  unusually  agreeable 
manner.  But  after  this  unlucky  evening,  the  thought  that 
his  honour  had  been  tarnished,  and  that  the  stain  had  been 
allowed  to  remain  upon  it  in  accordance  with  his  own  wish, 
was  ever  present  in  my  mind,  and  prevented  me  treating 
him  as  before.  I  was  ashamed  to  look  at  him.  Silvio  was 
too  intelligent  and  experienced  not  to  observe  this  and 
guess  the  cause  of  it.  This  seemed  to  vex  him  ;  at  least  I 
observed  once  or  twice  a  desire  on  his  part  to  enter  into  an 
explanation  with  me,  but  I  avoided  such  opportunities,  and 
Silvio  gave  up  the  attempt.     From  that  time  forward  I  saw 

THE  SHOT.  331 

him  only  in  the  presence  of  my  comrades,  and  our  con- 
fidential conversations  came  to  an  end. 

The  inhabitants  of  the  capital,  with  minds  occupied  by  so 
many  matters  of  business  and  pleasure,  have  no  idea  of  the 
many  sensations  so  familiar  to  the  inhabitants  of  villages  and 
small  towns,  as,  for  instance,  the  awaiting  the  arrival  of  the 
post.  On  Tuesdays  and  Fridays  our  regimental  bureau 
used  to  be  filled  with  officers  :  some  expecting  money,  some 
letters,  and  others  newspapers.  The  packets  were  usually 
opened  on  the  spot,  items  of  news  were  communicated  from 
one  to  another,  and  the  bureau  used  to  present  a  very  ani- 
mated picture.  Silvio  used  to  have  his  letters  addressed 
to  our  regiment,  and  he  was  generally  there  to  receive 

One  day  he  received  a  letter,  the  seal  of  which  he  broke 
with  a  look  of  great  impatience.  As  he  read  the  contents, 
his  eyes  sparkled.  The  officers,  each  occupied  with  his  own 
letters,  did  not  observe  anything. 

"  Gentlemen,"  said  Silvio,  "  circumstances  demand  my 
immediate  departure;  I  leave  to-night.  I  hope  that  you 
will  not  refuse  to  dine  with  me  for  the  last  time.  I  shall 
expect  you,  too,"  he  added,  turning  towards  me.  "  I  shall 
expect  you  without  fail." 

With  these  words  he  hastily  departed,  and  we,  after 
agreeing  to  meet  at  Silvio's,  dispersed  to  our  various 

I  arrived  at  Silvio's  house  at  the  appointed  time,  and 
found  nearly  the  whole  regiment  there.  All  his  things  were  al- 
ready packed ;  nothing  remained  but  the  bare,  bullet-riddled 
walls.  We  sat  down  to  table.  Our  host  was  in  an  excellent 
humour,  and  his  gaiety  was  quickly  communicated  to  the 
rest.  Corks  popped  every  moment,  glasses  foamed  inces- 
santly, and,  with  the  utmost  warmth,  we  wished  our  depart- 
ing friend  a  pleasant  journey  and  every  happiness.    When  we 

332  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

rose  from  the  table  it  was  already  late  in  the  evening 
After  having  wished  everybody  good-bye,  Silvio  took  me  by 
the  hand  and  detained  me  just  at  the  moment  when  I  was 
preparing  to  depart. 

"  I  want  to  speak  to  you,"  he  said  in  a  low  voice. 
\      I  stopped  behind. 

The  guests  had  departed,  and  we  two  were  left  alone. 
Sitting  down  opposite  each  other,  we  silently  lit  our  pipes. 
Silvio  seemed  greatly  troubled  ;  not  a  trace  remained  of  his 
former  convulsive  gaiety.  The  intense  pallor  of  his  face,  his 
sparkling  eyes,  and  the  thick  smoke  issuing  from  his  mouth, 
gave  him  a  truly  diabolical  appearance.  Several  minutes 
elapsed,  and  then  Silvio  broke  the  silence. 

"  Perhaps  we  shall  never  see  each  other  again,"  said  he ; 
**  before  we  part,  I  should  like  to  have  an  explanation  with 
you.  You  may  have  observed  that  I  care  very  little  for  the 
opinion  of  other  people,  but  I  like  you,  and  I  feel  that 
it  would  be  painful  to  me  to  leave  you  with  a  wrong  im- 
pression upon  your  mind." 

He  paused,  and  began  to  knock  the  ashes  out  of  his  pipe. 
I  sat  gazing  silently  at  the  ground. 

"  You  thought  it  strange,"  he  continued,  "  that  I  did  not 

demand  satisfaction  from  that  drunken  idiot  R .     You 

will  admit,  however,  that  having  the  choice  of  weapons,  his 
life  was  in  my  hands,  while  my  own  was  in  no  great  danger. 
I  could  ascribe  my  forbearance  to  generosity  alone,  but 
I  will  not  tell  a  lie.  If  I  could  have  chastised  R with- 
out the  least  risk  to  my  own  life,  I  should  never  have 
pardoned  him." 

I  looked  at  Silvio  with  astonishment.  Such  a  confession 
completely  astounded  me.     Silvio  continued  : 

*'  Exactly  so  :  I  have  no  right  to  expose  myself  to  death. 
Six  years  ago  I  received  a  slap  in  the  face,  and  my  enemy 
still  lives." 

THE  SHOT.  333 

My  curiosity  was  greatly  excited. 

*'  Did  you  not  fight  with  him  ?  "  I  asked.  "  Circumstances 
probably  separated  you." 

"  I  did  fight  with  him,"  replied  Silvio :  "  and  here  is 
a  souvenir  of  our  duel." 

Silvio  rose  and  took  from  a  cardboard  box  a  red  cap  with 
a  gold  tassel  and  embroidery  (what  the  French  call  a  bonnet 

de  police) ;  he  put  in  on a  bullet  had  passed  through  it 

ubout  an  inch  above  the  forehead. 

**You  know,"  continued  Silvio,  "that  I  served  in  one  of 
the  Hussar  regiments.  My  character  is  well-known  to  you  : 
I  am  accustomed  to  taking  the  lead.  From  my  youth  this 
has  been  my  passion.  In  our  time  dissoluteness  was  the 
fashion,  and  I  was  the  most  outrageous  man  in  the  army. 
We  used  to  boast  of  our  drunkenness  :  I  beat  in  a  drinking 
beut  the  famous  Bourtsoff,^  of  whom  Denis  Davidoff^  has 
sung.  Duels  in  our  regiment  were  constantly  talcing  place, 
and  in  all  of  them  I  was  either  second  or  principal.  My 
comrades  adof  ed  me,  while  the  regimental  commanders,  who 
were  constantly  being  changed,  looked  upon  me  as  a 
necessary  evil. 

"  I  was  calmly  enjoying  my  reputation,  when  a  young  man 
belonging  to  a  wealthy  and  distinguished  family — I  will  not 
mention  his  name — ^joined  our  regiment.  Never  in  my 
life  have  I  met  with  such  a  fortunate  fellow  !  Imagine  to 
yourself  youth,  wit,  beauty,  unbounded  gaiety,  the  most 
reckless  bravery,  a  famous  name,  untold  wealth — imagine  all 
these,  and  you  can  form  some  idea  of  the  effect  that  he  would 
be  sure  to  produce  among  us.  My  supremacy  was  shaken. 
Dazzled  by  my  reputation,  he  began  to  seek  my  friendship, 
but  I  received  him  coldly,  and  without  the  least  regret  he 
held  aloof  from  me.     I  took  a  hatred  to  him.     His  success 

^  A  cavalry  officer,  notorious  for  his  drunken  escapades. 

^  A  military  poet  who  flourished  in  the  reign  of  Alexander  L 

334  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

in  the  regiment  and  in  the  society  of  ladies  brought  me  to 
the  verge  of  despair.  I  began  to  seek  a  quarrel  with  him ; 
to  my  epigrams  he  replied  with  epigrams  which  always 
seemed  to  me  more  spontaneous  and  more  cutting  than 
mine,  and  which  were  decidedly  more  amusing,  for  he 
joked  while  I  fumed.  At  last,  at  a  ball  given  by  a  Polish 
landed  proprietor,  seeing  him  the  object  of  the  attention  of 
all  the  ladies,  and  especially  of  the  mistress  of  the  house, 
with  whom  I  was  upon  very  good  terms,  I  whispered  some 
grossly  insulting  remark  in  his  ear.  He  flamed  up  and  gave 
me  a  slap  in  the  face.  We  grasped  our  swords  ;  the  ladies 
fainted  ;  we  were  separated ;  and  that  same  night  we  set  out 
to  fight. 

"The  dawn  was  just  breaking.  I  was  standing  at  the 
appointed  place  with  my  three  seconds.  With  inexplicable 
impatience  I  awaited  my  opponent.  The  spring  sun  rose, 
and  it  was  already  growing  hot.  I  saw  him  coming  in  the 
distance.  He  was  walking  on  foot,  accompanied  by  one 
second.  We  advanced  to  meet  him.  He  approached, 
holding  his  cap  filled  with  black  cherries.  The  seconds 
measured  twelve  paces  for  us.  I  had  to  fire  first,  but 
my  agitation  was  so  great,  that  I  could  not  depend  upon  the 
steadiness  of  my  hand ;  and  in  order  to  give  myself  time  to 
become  calm,  I  ceded  to  him  the  first  shot.  My  adversary 
would  not  agree  to  this.  It  was  decided  that  we  should  cast 
lots.  The  first  number  fell  to  him,  the  constant  favourite  of 
fortune.  He  took  aim,  and  his  bullet  went  through  my  cap. 
It  was  now  my  turn.  His  life  at  last  was  in  my  hands ;  I 
looked  at  him  eagerly,  endeavouring  to  detect  if  only  the  faint- 
est shadow  of  uneasiness.  But  he  stood  in  front  of  my  pistol, 
picking  out  the  ripest  cherries  from  his  cap  and  spitting  out 
the  stones,  which  flew  almost  as  far  as  my  feet.  His 
indifference  annoyed  me  beyond  measure.  'What  is  the 
use,'  thought  I,  '  of  deprivmg  him  of  life,  when  he  attaches 

THE  SHOT.  335 

no  value  whatever  to  it?'  A  malicious  thought  flashed 
through  my  mind.     I  lowered  my  pistol. 

"  *  You  don't  seem  to  be  ready  for  death  just  at  present,' 
I  said  to  him  :  *  you  wish  to  have  your  breakfast ;  I  do  not 
wish  to  hinder  you.' 

"  '  You  are  not  hindermg  me  in  the  least,'  replied  he. 
*  Have  the  goodness  to  fire,  or  just  as  you  please — the  shot 
remains  yours ;  I  shall  always  be  ready  at  your  service.' 

"  I  turned  to  the  seconds,  informing  them  that  I  had  no 
intention  of  firing  that  day,  and  with  that  the  duel  came  to 
an  end. 

"  I  resigned  my  commission  and  retired  to  this  little  place. 
Since  then,  not  a  day  has  passed  that  I  have  not  thought  of 
revenge.     And  now  my  hour  has  arrived." 

Silvio  took  from  his  pocket  the  letter  that  he  had  received 
that  morning,  and  gave  it  to  me  to  read.  Someone  (it 
seemed  to  be  his  business  agent)  wrote  to  him  from  Moscow, 
that  a  certain  person  was  going  to  be  married  to  a  young  and 
beautiful  girl.  .- 

"  You  can  guess,"  said  Silvio,  "  who  the  certain  person  is 
I  am  going  to  Moscow.  We  shall  see  if  he  will  look  death 
in  the  face  with  as  much  indifference  now,  when  he  is 
on  the  eve  of  being  married,  as  he  did  once  with  his 
cherries ! " 

With  these  words,  Silvio  rose,  threw  his  cap  upon  the  floor, 
and  began  pacing  up  and  down  the  room  like  a  tiger  in  his 
cage.  I  had  listened  to  him  in  silence  j  strange  conflicting 
feeUngs  agitated  me. 

The  servant  entered  and  announced  that  the  horses  were 
ready.  Silvio  grasped  my  hand  tightly,  and  we  embraced 
each  other.  He  seated  himself  in  his  telega,  in  which  lay 
two  trunks,  one  containing  his  pistols,  the  other  his  effects. 
We  said  good-bye  once  more,  and  the  horses  galloped  oft. 



SEVERAL  years  passed,  and  family  circumstances  com- 
pelled  me  to  settle  in  the  poor  little  village  of  M . 

Occupied  with  agricultural  pursuits,  I  ceased  not  to  sigh  in 
secret  for  my  former  noisy  and  careless  life.  The  most 
difficult  thing  of  all  was  having  to  accustom  myself  to  pass- 
ing the  spring  and  winter  evenings  in  perfect  solitude.  Until 
the  hour  for  dinner  I  managed  to  pass  away  the  time  some- 
how or  other,  talking  with  the  bailiff,  riding  about  to  inspect 
the  work,  or  going  round  to  look  at  the  new  buildings ;  but 
as  soon  as  it  began  to  get  dark,  I  positively  did  not  know 
what  to  do  with  myself.  The  few  books  that  I  had  found 
in  the  cupboards  and  store-rooms,  I  already  knew  by  heart. 
All  the  stories  that  my  housekeeper  Kirilovna  could 
remember,  I  had  heard  over  and  over  again.  The  songs  of 
the  peasant  women  made  me  feel  depressed.  I  tried  drink- 
ing spirits,  but  it  made  my  head  ache ;  and  moreover,  I  con- 
fess I  was  afraid  of  becoming  a  drunkard  from  mere  chagrin, 
that  is  to  say,  the  saddest  kind  of  drunkard,  of  which  I  had 
seen  many  examples  in  our  district. 

I  had  no  near  neighbours,  except  two  or  three  topers, 
whose  conversation  consisted  for  the  mosit  part  of  hiccups 
and  sighs.  Solitude  was  preferable  to  their  society.  At  last 
I  decided  to  go  to  bed  as  early  as  possible,  and  to  dine  as 
late  as  possible ;  in  this  way  I  shortened  the  evening  and 
lengthened  out  the  day,  and  I  found  that  the  plan  answered 
very  well. 

Four  versts  from  my  house  was  a  rich  estate  belonging  to 

THE   SHOT.  337 

the  Countess  B ;  but  nobody  lived  there  except  the 

steward.  The  Countess  had  only  visited  her  estate  once,  in 
the  first  year  of  her  married  life,  and  then  she  had  remained 
there  no  longer  than  a  month.  But  in  the  second  spring  of 
my  hermitical  life,  a  report  was  circulated  that  the  Countess, 
with  her  husband,  was  coming  to  spend  the  summer  on  her 
estate.  The  report  turned  out  to  be  true,  for  they  arrived 
at  the  beginning  of  June. 

The  arrival  of  a  rich  neighbour  is  an  important  event  in 
the  lives  of  country  people.  The  landed  proprietors  and 
the  people  of  their  household  talk  about  it  for  two  months 
beforehand,  and  for  three  years  afterwards.  As  for  me,  I 
must  confess  that  the  news  of  the  arrival  of  a  young  and 
beautiful  neighbour  affected  me  strongly.  I  burned  with 
impatience  to  see  her,  and  the  first  Sunday  after  her  arrival 

I  set  out  after  dinner  for  the  village  of  A ,  to  pay  my 

respects  to  the  Countess  and  her  husband,  as  their  nearest 
neighbour  and  most  humble  servant. 

A  lackey  conducted  me  into  the  Count's  study,  and  then 
went  to  announce  me.  The  spacious  apartment  was 
furnished  with  every '  possible  luxury.  Around  the  walls 
were  cases  filled  with  books  and  surmounted  by  bronze 
busts ;  over  the  marble  mantelpiece  was  a  large  mirror ;  on 
the  floor  was  a  green  cloth  covered  with  carpets.  Unaccus- 
tomed to  luxury  in  my  own  poor  corner,  and  not  having  seen 
the  wealth  of  other  people  for  a  long  time,  I  awaited  the 
appearance  of  the  Count  with  some  little  trepidation,  as  a 
suppliant  from  the  provinces  awaits  the  arrival  of  the 
minister.  The  door  opened,  and  a  handsome-looking  man, 
of  about  thirty-two  years  of  age,  entered  the  room.  The 
Count  approached  me  with  a  frank  and  friendly  air:  I 
endeavoured  to  be  self-possessed  and  began  to  introduce 
myself,  but  he  anticipated  me.  We  sat  down.  His  conver- 
sation, which  was  easy  and  agreeable,  soon  dissipated  my 


awkward  bashfulness;  and  I  was  already  beginning  to 
recover  my  usual  composure,  when  the  Countess  suddenly 
entered,  and  I  became  more  confused  than  ever.  She  was 
indeed  beautiful.  The  Count  presented  me.  I  wished  to 
appear  at  ease,  but  the  more  I  tried  to  assume  an  air  of  un- 
constnaint,  the  more  awkward  I  felt.  They,  in  order  to  give 
me  time  to  recover  myself  and  to  become  accustomed  to  my 
new  acquaintances,  began  to  talk  to  each  other,  treating  me 
as  a  good  neighbour,  and  without  ceremony.  Meanwhile,  I 
walked  about  the  room,  examining  the  books  and  pictures. 
I  am  no  judge  of  pictures,  but  one  of  them  attracted  my 
attention.  It  represented  some  view  in  Switzerland,  but  it 
was  not  the  painting  that  struck  me,  but  the  circumstance 
that  the  canvas  was  shot  through  by  two  bullets,  one  planted 
just  above  the  other. 

"  A  good  shot,  that ! "  said  I,  turning  to  the  Count. 

"  Yes,"  replied  he,  "  a  very  remarkable  shot.  ...  Do 
you  shoot  well  ?  "  he  continued. 

"Tolerably,"  replied  I,  rejoicing  that  the  conversation 
had  turned  at  last  upon  a  subject  that  was  familiar  to  me. 
"  At  thirty  paces  I  can  manage  to  hit  a  card  without  fail, — 
I  mean,  of  course,  with  a  pistol  that  I  am  used  to." 

"  Really  ?  "  said  the  Countess,  with  a  look  of  the  greatest 
interest.  "  And  you,  my  dear,  could  you  hit  a  card  at  thirty 
paces  ?  " 

"Some  day,"  replied  the  Count,  "we  will  try.  In  my 
time  I  did  not  shoot  badly,  but  it  is  now  four  years  since  I 
touched  a  pistol." 

"  Oh  ! "  I  observed,  "  in  that  case,  I  don't  mind  laying  a 
wager  that  Your  Excellency  will  not  hit  the  card  at  twenty 
paces :  the  pistol  demands  practice  every  day.  I  know  that 
from  experience.  In  our  regiment  I  was  reckoned  one  of 
the  best  shots.  It  once  happened  that  I  did  not  touch  a 
pistol  for  a  whole  month,  a$  I  had  sent  mine  to  be  mended  ^ 

THE  SHOT.  339 

and  would  you  believe  it,  Your  Excellency,  the  first  time 
I  began  to  shoot  again,  I  missed  a  bottle  four  times  in 
succession  at  twenty  paces  !  Our  captain,  a  witty  and 
amusing  fellow,  happened  to  be  standing  by,  and  he  said  to 
me :  *  It  is  evident,  my  friend,  that  your  hand  will  not  lift 
itself  against  the  bottle.'  No,  Your  Excellency,  you  must 
not  neglect  to  practise,  or  your  hand  will  soon  lose  its  cun- 
ning. The  best  shot  that  I  ever  met  used  to  shoot  at  least 
three  times  every  day  before  dinner.  It  was  as  much  his 
custom  to  do  this,  as  it  was  to  drink  his  daily  glass  of 

The  Count  and  Countess  seemed  pleased  that  I  had 
begun  to  talk. 

**  And  what  sort  of  a  shot  was  he?"  asked  the  Count. 

**  Well,  it  was  this  way  with  him.  Your  Excellency :  if  he 
saw  a  fly  settle  on  the  wall — you  smile,  Countess,  but,  before 
Heaven,  it  is  the  truth.  If  he  saw  a  fly,  he  would  call  out : 
*  Kouzka,  my  pistol ! '  Kouzka  would  bring  him  a  loaded 
pistol — bangi  and  the  fly  would  be  crushed  against  the 

"Wonderful!"  said  the  Count.  "And  what  was  his 
name  ?  " 

*'  Silvio,  Your  Excellency." 

"  Silvio  ! "  exclaimed  the  Count,  starting  up.  "  Did  you 
know  Silvio  ?  " 

"  How  could  I  help  knowing  him,  Your  Excellency :  we 
were  intimate  friends ;  he  was  received  in  our  regiment  like 
a  brother  officer,  but  it  is  now  five  years  since  I  had  any 
tidings  of  him.     Then  Your  Excellency  also  knew  him  ?  " 

"  Oh,  yes,  I  knew  him  very  well.  Did  he  ever  tell  you 
of  one  very  strange  incident  in  his  life  ?  " 

"  Does  Your  Excellency  refer  to  the  slap  in  the  face  that 
he  received  from  some  blackguard  at  a  ball  ?  " 

"  Did  he  tell  you  the  name  of  this  blackguard  ?" 

340      poushkin's  prose  tales. 

'*  No,  Your  Excellency,  he  never  mentioned  his  name.  .  .  . 
Ah  !  Your  Excellency  ! "  I  continued,  guessing  the  truth  : 
"  pardon  me  ...  I  did  not  know  .  .  .  could  it  really  have 
been  you  ?  " 

"  Yes,  I  myself,"  replied  the  Count,  with  a  look  of  ex- 
traordinary agitation ;  '*  and  that  bullet-pierced  picture  is  a 
memento  of  our  last  meeting." 

"  Ah,  my  dear,"  said  the  Countess,  "  for  Heaven's  sake, 
do  not  speak  about  that ;  it  would  be  too  terrible  for  me  to 
listen  to." 

"  No,"  replied  the  Count :  "  I  will  relate  everything.  He 
knows  how  I-  insulted  his  friend,  and  it  is  only  right  that  he 
should  know  how  Silvio  revenged  himself." 

The  Count  pushed  a  chair  towards  me,  and  with  the 
-^^veliest  interest  I  listened  to  the  following  story : 

"Five  years  ago  I  got  married.  The  first  month — the 
honeymoon — I  spent  here,  in  this  village.  To  this  house  I 
am  indebted  for  the  happiest  moments  of  my  life,  as  well  as 
for  one  of  its  most  painful  recollections. 

"  One  evening  we  went  out  together  for  a  ride  on  horse- 
back. My  wife's  horse  became  restive ;  she  grew  frightened, 
gave  the  reins  to  me,  and  returned  home  on  foot.  I  rode 
on  before.  In  the  courtyard  I  saw  a  travelling  carriage, 
and  I  was  told  that  in  my  study  sat  waiting  for  me  a  man, 
who  would  not  give  his  name,  but  who  merely  said  that  he 
had  business  with  me.  I  entered  the  room  and  saw  in  the 
darkness  a  man,  covered  with  dust  and  wearing  a  beard  of 
several  days'  growth.  He  was  standing  there,  near  the 
fireplace.  I  approached  him,  trying  to  remember  his 

" '  You  do  not  recognize  me,  Count  ? '  said  he,  in  a 
quivering  voice. 

"  *  Silvio  ! '  I  cried,  and  I  confess  that  I  felt  as  if  my  hair 
had  suddenly  stood  on  end. 

THE  SHOT,  341 

"  *  Exactly/  continued  he.  '  There  is  a  shot  due  to 
me,  and  I  have  come  to  discharge  my  pistol.  Are  you 
ready  ? ' 

"  His  pistol  protruded  from  a  side  pocket.  I  measured 
twelve  paces  and  took  my  stand  there  in  that  corner, 
begging  him  to  fire  quickly,  before  my  wife  arrived.  He 
hesitated,  and  asked  for  a  light.  Candles  were  brought  in. 
I  closed  the  doors,  gave  orders  that  nobody  was  to  enter, 
and  again  begged  him  to  fire.  He  drew  out  his  pistol  and 
took  aim.  ...  I  counted  the  seconds  ...  I  thought  of 
her  ...  A  terrible  minute  passed  1  Silvio  lowered  his 

" '  I  regret,'  said  he,  *  that  the  pistol  is  not  loaded  with 
cherry-stones  .  .  .  the  bullet  is  heavy.  It  seems  to  me 
that  this  is  not  a  duel,  but  a  murder.  I  am  not  accustomed 
to  taking  aim  at  unarmed  men.  Let  us  begin  all  over 
again ;  we  will  cast  lots  as  to  who  shall  fire  first.' 

"  My  head  went  round  ...  I  think  I  raised  some  objec- 
tion. ...  At  last  we  loaded  another  pistol,  and  rolled  up 
two  pieces  of  paper.  He  placed  these  latter  in  his  cap — 
the  same  through  which  I  had  once  sent  a  bullet — and 
again  I  drew  the  first  number. 

" '  You  are  devilish  lucky,  Count,'  said  he,  with  a  smile 
that  I  shall  never  forget. 

"  I  don't  know  what  was  the  matter  with  me,  or  how  it 
was  that  he  managed  to  make  me  do  it  .  .  .  but  I  fired 
and  hit  that  picture." 

The  Count  pointed  with  his  finger  to  the  perforated 
picture ;  his  face  glowed  like  fire  j  the  Countess  was  whiter 
than  her  own  handkerchief;  and  I  could  not  restrain  an 

"  I  fired,"  continued  the  Count,  "  and,  thank  Heaven, 
missed  my  aim.  Then  Silvio  ...  at  that  moment  he  was 
really  terrible.  .  .  .  Silvio  raised  his  hand  to  take  aim  at 

342      poushkin's  prose  tales. 

me.  Suddenly  the  door  opens,  Masha  rushes  into  the 
room,  and  with  a  loud  shriek  throws  herself  upon  my  neck. 
Her  presence  restored  to  me  all  my  courage. 

*"My  dear,'  said  I  to  her,  *  don't  you  see  that  we  are 
joking  ?  How  frightened  you  are  !  Go  and  drink  a  glass  of 
water  and  then  come  back  to  us ;  I  will  introduce  you 
to  an  old  friend  and  comrade.' 

'*  Masha  still  doubted. 

"  *  Tell  me,  is  my  husband  speaking  the  truth  ?  *  said  she, 
turning  to  the  terrible  Silvio ;  *  is  it  true  that  you  are  only 
joking  ? ' 

"  *  He  is  always  joking,  Countess,'  replied  Silvio :  *  once 
he  gave  me  a  slap  in  the  face  in  a  joke ;  on  another  occa- 
sion he  sent  a  bullet  through  my  cap  in  a  joke ;  and  just 
now,  when  he  fired  at  me  and  missed  me,  it  was  all  in  a 
joke.     And  now  I  feel  inclined  for  a  joke.' 

"  With  these  words  he  raised  his  pistol  to  take  aim 
at  me — right  before  her !  Masha  threw  herself  at  his 

"  *  Rise,  Masha ;  are  you  not  ashamed  ! '  I  cried  in  a 
rage :  *  and  you,  sir,  will  you  cease  to  make  fun  of  a  poor 
woman  ?   Will  you  fire  or  not  ? ' 

"  *  I  will  not,'  replied  Silvio :  *  I  am  satisfied.  I  have 
seen  your  confusion,  your  alarm.  I  forced  you  to  fire  at 
me.  That  is  sufficient.  You  will  remember  me.  I  leave 
you  to  your  conscience,* 

'*  Then  he  turned  to  go,  but  pausing  in  the  doorway,  and 
looking  at  the  picture  that  my  shot  had  passed  through,  he 
fired  at  it  almost  without  taking  aim,  and  disappeared. 
My  wife  had  fainted  away  ;  the  servants  did  not  venture  to 
stop  him,  the  mere  look  of  him  filled  them  with  terror.  He 
went  out  upon  the  steps,  called  his  coachman,  and  drove 
off  before  I  could  recover  myself." 

The  Count  was  silent.     In  this  way  I  learned  the  end  of 

THE  SHOT.  343 

the  story,  whose  beginning  had  once  made  such  a  deep 
impression  upon  me.  The  hero  of  it  I  never  saw  again.  It 
is  said  that  Silvio  commanded  a  detachment  of  Hetairists 
during  the  revolt  under  Alexander  Ipsilanti,  and  that  he 
was  killed  in  the  battle  of  Skoulana. 




TOWARDS  the  end  of  the  year  1811,  a  memorable 
period  for  us,  the  good  Gavril  Gavrilovitch  R 

was  living  on  his  domain  of  Nenaradova.  He  was  cele- 
brated throughout  the  district  for  his  hospitality  and  kind- 
heartedness.  The  neighbours  were  constantly  visiting  him  : 
some  to  eat  and  drink ;  some  to  play  at  five  copeck 
"  Boston  "  with  his  wife,  Praskovia  Petrovna ;  and  some  to 
look  at  their  daughter,  Maria  Gavrilovna,  a  pale,  slender  girl 
of  seventeen.  She  was  considered  a  wealthy  match,  and 
many  desired  her  for  themselves  or  for  their  sons. 

Maria  Gavrilovna  had  been  brought  up  on  French  novels, 
and  consequently  was  in  love.  The  object  of  her  choice 
was  a  poor  sub-lieutenant  in  the  army,  who  was  then  on 
leave  of  absence  in  his  village.  It  need  scarcely  be  men- 
tioned that  the  young  man  returned  her  passion  with  equal 
ardour,  and  that  the  parents  of  his  beloved  one,  observing 
their  mutual  inclination,  forbade  their  daughter  to  think 
of  him,  and  received  him  worse  than  a  discharged 

Our  lovers  corresponded  with  one  another  and  daily  saw 
each  other  alone  in  the  little  pine  wood  or  near  the  old 
chapel.  There  they  exchanged  vows  of  eternal  love, 
lamented  their  cruel  fate,  and  formed  various  plans.  Corre- 
sponding and  conversing  in  this  way,  they  arrived  quite 
naturally  at  the  following  conclusion  : 

If  we  cannot  exist  without  each  other,  and  the  will  of 


hard-hearted  parents  stands  in  the  way  of  our  happiness, 
why  cannot  we  do  without  them  ? 

Needless  to  mention  that  this  happy  idea  originated  in 
the  mind  of  the  young  man,  and  that  it  was  very  congenial 
to  the  romantic  imagination  of  Maria  Gavrilovna. 

The  winter  came  and  put  a  stop  to  their  meetings,  but 
their  correspondence  became  all  the  more  active.  Vladimir 
Nikolaievitch  in  every  letter  implored  her  to  give  herself  up 
to  him,  to  get  married  secretly,  to  hide  for  some  time,  and 
then  throw  themselves  at  the  feet  of  their  parents,  who  would, 
without  any  doubt,  be  touched  at  last  by  the  heroic  con- 
stancy and  unhappiness  of  the  lovers,  and  would  infallibly 
say  to  them  :  "  Children,  come  to  our  arms  !  " 

Maria  Gavrilovna  hesitated  for  a  long  time,  and  several 
plans  for  a  flight  were  rejected.  At  last  she  consented  :  on 
the  appointed  day  she  was  not  to  take  supper,  but  was  to 
retire  to  her  room  under  the  pretext  of  a  headache.  Her 
maid  was  in  the  plot ;  they  were  both  to  go  into  the  garden 
by  the  back  stairs,  and  behind  the  garden  they  would  find 
ready  a  sledge,  into  which  they  were  to  get,  and  then  drive 
straight  to  the  church  of  Jadrino,  a  village  about  five  versts 
from  Nenaradova,  where  Vladimir  would  be  waiting  for 

On  the  eve  of  the  decisive  day,  Maria  Gavrilovna  did  not 
sleep  the  whole  night ;  she  packed  and  tied  up  her  linen  and 
other  articles  of  apparel,  wrote  a  long  letter  to  a  sentimental 
young  lady,  a  friend  of  hers,  and  another  to  her  parents. 
She  took  leave  of  them  in  the  most  touching  terms,  urged 
the  invincible  strength  of  passion  as  an  excuse  for  the  step 
she  was  taking,  and  wound  up  with  the  assurance  that  she 
should  consider  it  the  happiest  moment  of  her  life,  when 
she  should  be  allowed  to  throw  herself  at  the  feet  Oi  her 
dear  parents. 

After  having  sealed  both  letters  with  a  Toula  seal,  upon 


which  were  engraved  two  flaming  hearts  with  a  suitable 
inscription,  she  threw  herself  upon   her  bed  just  before 
daybreak,  and  dozed  off:  but  even  then  she  was  constantly 
!  being  awakened  by  terrible  dreams.     First  it  seemed  to  her 
j  that  at  the  very  moment  when  she  seated  herself  in  the 
j  sledge,  in  order  to  go  and  get  married,  her  father  stopped 
her,  dragged  her  over  the  snow  with  fearful  rapidity,  and 
threw  her  into  a  dark  bottomless  abyss,  down  which  she  fell 
headlong  with  an  indescribable  sinking  of  the  heart.     Then 
she  saw  Vladimir  lying  on  the  grass,  pale  and  bloodstained. 
With  his  dying  breath  he  implored  her  in  a  piercing  voice 
to  make   haste  and  marry  him.  .  .  .  Other  fantastic  and 
senseless  visions  floated  before  her  one  after  another.     At 
last  she  arose,  paler  than  usual,  and  with  an   unfeigned 
headache.     Her  father  and  mother  observed  her  uneasi- 
ness ;    their    tender    solicitude    and    incessant    inquiries : 
**What    is    the   matter   with    you,    Masha?     Are   you   ill, 
Masha  ?  "  cut  her  to  the  heart.     She  tried  to  reassure  them 
and  to  appear  cheerful,  but  in  vain. 

The  evening  came.  The  thought,  that  this  was  the  last 
day  she  would  pass  in  the  bosom  of  her  family,  weighed 
upon  her  heart.  She  was  more  dead  than  alive.  In  secret 
she  took  leave  of  everybody,  of  all  the  objects  that  sur- 
rounded her. 

Supper  was  served;  her  heart  began  to  beat  violently. 
In  a  trembling  voice  she  declared  that  she  did  not  want  any 
supper,  and  then  took  leave  of  her  father  and  mother.  They 
kissed  her  and  blessed  her  as  usual,  and  she  could  hardly 
restrain  herself  from  weeping. 

On  reaching  her  own  room,  she  threw  herself  into  a  chair 
and  burst  into  tears.  Her  maid  urged  her  to  be  calm  and 
to  take  courage.  Everything  was  ready.  In  half  an  hour 
Masha  would  leave  for  ever  her  parents'  house,  her  room, 
and  her  peaceful  girlish  life.  .  .  , 

35C  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

Out  in  the  courtyard  the  snow  was  falling  heavily;  the 
wind  howled,  the  shutters  shook  and  rattled,  and  everything 
seemed  to  her  to  portend  misfortune. 

Soon  all  was  quiet  in  the  house :  everyone  was  asleep. 
Masha  wrapped  herself  in  a  shawl,  put  on  a  warm  cloak, 
took  her  small  box  in  her  hand,  and  went  down  the  back 
staircase.  Her  maid  followed  her  with  two  bundles.  The} 
descended  into  the  garden.  The  snowstorm  had  not  sub- 
sided ;  the  wind  blew  in  their  faces,  as  if  trying  to  stop  the 
young  criminal.  With  difficulty  they  reached  the  end  of 
the  garden.  In  the  road  a  sledge  awaited  them.  The 
horses,  half-frozen  with  the  cold,  would  not  keep  still; 
Vladimir's  coachman  was  walking  up  and  down  in  front 
of  them,  trying  to  restrain  their  impatience.  He  helped  the 
young  lady  and  her  maid  into  the  sledge,  placed  the  box 
and  the  bundles  in  the  vehicle,  seized  the  reins,  and  the 
horses  dashed  off. 

Having  intrusted  the  young  lady  to  the  care  of  fate  and 
to  the  skill  of  Tereshka  the  coachman,  we  will  return  to  our 
young  lover. 

Vladimir  had  spent  the  whole  of  the  day  in  driving  about. 
In  the  morning  he  paid  a  visit  to  the  priest  of  Jadrino,  and 
having  come  to  an  agreement  with  him  after  a  great  deal  of 
difficulty,  he  then  set  out  to  seek  for  witnesses  among  the 
neighbouring  landowners.  The  first  to  vfhom  he  presented 
himself,  a  retired  cornet  of  about  forty  years  of  age,  and 
whose  name  was  Dravin,  consented  with  pleasure.  The 
adventure,  he  declared,  reminded  him  of  his  young  days 
and  his  pranks  in  the  Hussars.  He  persuaded  Vladimir  to 
stay  to  dinner  with  him,  and  assured  him  that  he  would 
have  no  difficulty  in  finding  the  other  two  witnesses.  And, 
indeed,  immediately  after  dinner,  appeared  the  surveyor 
Schmidt,  with  moustache  and  spurs,  and  the  son  of  the 
captain  of  police,  a  lad  of  sixteen  years  of  age,  who  had 


recently  entered  the  Uhlans.  They  not  only  accepted 
Vladimir's  proposal,  but  even  vowed  that  they  were  ready 
to  sacrifice  their  lives  for  him.  Vladimir  embraced  them 
with  rapture,  and  returned  home  to  get  everything  ready. 

It  had  been  dark  for  some  time.  He  dispatched  his  faithful 
Tereshka  to  Nenaradova  with  his  sledge  and  with  detailed 
instructions,  and  ordered  for  himself  the  small  sledge  with 
one  horse,  and  set  out  alone,  without  any  coachman,  for 
Jadrino,  where  Maria  Gavrilovna  ought  to  arrive  in  about  a 
couple  of  hours.  He  knew  the  road  well,  and  the  journey 
would  only  occupy  about  twenty  minutes  altogether. 

But  scarcely  had  Vladimir  issued  from  the  paddock  into 
the  open  field,  when  the  wind  rose  and  such  a  snowstorm 
came  on  that  he  could  see  nothing.  In  one  minute  the 
road  was  completely  hidden ;  all  surrounding  objects  dis- 
appeared in  a  thick  yellow  fog,  through  which  fell  the  white 
flakes  of  snow ;  earth  and  sky  became  confounded.  Vladimir 
found  himself  in  the  middle  of  the  field,  and  tried  in  vain  to 
find  the  road  again.  His  horse  went  on  at  random,  and  at 
every  moment  kept  either  stepping  into  a  snowdrift  or 
stumbling  into  a  hole,  so  that  the  sledge  was  constantly 
being  overturned.  Vladimir  endeavoured  not  to  lose  the 
right  direction.  But  it  seemed  to  him  that  more  than  half 
an  hour  had  already  passed,  and  he  had  not  yet  reached  the 
Jadrino  wood.  Another  ten  minutes  elapsed — still  no  wood 
was  to  be  seen.  Vladimir  drove  across  a  field  intersected 
by  deep  ditches.  The  snowstorm  did  not  abate,  the  sky 
did  not  become  any  clearer.  The  horse  began  to  grow 
tired,  and  the  perspiration  rolled  from  him  in  great  drops,  in 
spite  of  the  fact  that  he  was  constantly  being  half-buried  in 
the  snow. 

At  last  Vladimir  perceived  that  he  was  going  in  the  wrong 
direction.  He  stopped,  began  to  think,  to  recollect,  and 
compare,  and  he  felt  convinced  that  he  ought  to  have  turned 

352         POUSHKIN*S  PROSE  TALES. 

to  the  right.  He  turned  to  the  right  now.  His  horse  could 
scarcely  move  forward.  He  had  now  been  on  the  road  for 
more  than  an  hour.  Jadrino  could  not  be  far  off.  But  on  and 
on  he  went,  and  still  no  end  to  the  field — nothing  but  snow- 
drifts and  ditches.  The  sledge  was  constantly  being  over- 
turned, and  as  constantly  being  set  right  again.  The 
time  was  passing  :  Vladimir  began  to  grow  seriously  un- 

At  last  something  dark  appeared  in  the  distance.  Vladi- 
mir directed  his  course  towards  it.  On  drawing  near,  he 
perceived  that  it  was  a  wood. 

"  Thank  Heaven  ! "  he  thought,  "  I  am  not  far  off  now." 

He  drove  along  by  the  edge  of  the  wood,  hoping  by-and- 
by  to  fall  upon  the  well-known  road  or  to  pass  round  the 
wood  :  Jadrino  was  situated  just  behind  it.  He  soon  found 
the  road,  and  plunged  into  the  darkness  of  the  wood,  now 
denuded  of  leaves  by  the  winter.  The  wind  could  not  rage 
here  ;  the  road  was  smooth  ;  the  horse  recovered  courage, 
and  Vladimir  felt  reassured. 

But  he  drove  on  and  on,  and  Jadrino  was  not  to  be  seen ; 
there  was  no  end  to  the  wood.  Vladimir  discovered  with 
horror  that  he  had  entered  an  unknown  forest.  Despair 
took  possession  of  him.  He  whipped  the  horse ;  the  poor 
animal  broke  into  a  trot,  but  it  soon  slackened  its  pace,  and 
in  about  a  quarter  of  an  hour  it  was  scarcely  able  to  drag 
one  leg  after  the  other,  in  spite  of  all  the  exertions  of  the 
unfortunate  Vladimir. 

Gradually  the  trees  began  to  get  sparser,  and  Vladimir 
emerged  from  the  forest ;  but  Jadrino  was  not  to  be  seen. 
It  must  now  have  been  about  midnight.  Tears  gushed 
from  his  eyes;  he  drove  on  at  random.  Meanwhile  the 
storm  had  subsided,  the  clouds  dispersed,  and  before  him 
lay  a  level  plain  covered  with  a  white  undulating  carpet. 
The  night  was  tolerably  clear.     He  saw,  not  far  off,  a  little 


village,  consisting  of  four  or  five  houses.  Vladimir  drove 
towards  it.  At  the  first  cottage  he  jumped  out  of  the  sledge, 
ran  to  the  window  and  began  to  knock.  After  a  few  minutes, 
the  wooden  shutter  was  raised,  and  an  old  man  thrust  out 
his  grey  beard. 

''What  do  you  want?" 

"  Is  jidrino  far  from  here  ?  " 

*'  Is  Jadrino  far  from  here  ?  " 

"Yes,  yes!    Is  it  far?" 

"  Not  far ;  about  ten  versts." 

At  this  reply,  Vladimir  grasped  his  hair  and  stood  motion- 
less, like  a  man  condemned  to  death. 

"Where  do  you  come  from?"  continued  the  old  man. 

Vladimir  had  not  the  courage  to  answer  the  question. 

"  Listen,  old  man,"  said  he  :  "  can  you  procure  me  horses 
to  take  me  to  Jadrino  ?  " 

"  How  should  we  have  such  things  as  horses  ? "  replied 
the  peasant. 

"Can  I  obtain  a  guide?  I  will  pay  him  whatever  he 

"Wait,"  s^id  the  old  man,  closing  the  shutter;  "I  will 
send  my  son  out  to  you ;  he  will  guide  you." 

Vladimir  waited.  But  a  minute  had  scarcely  elapsed 
when  he  began  knocking  again.  The  shutter  was  raised, 
and  the  beard  again  appeared. 

"  What  do  you  want  ?  " 

"  What  about  your  son  ?  " 

"  He'll  be  out  presently ;  he  is  putting  on  his  boots.  Are 
you  cold?    Come  in  and  warm  yourself." 

"  Thank  you ;  send  your  son  out  quickly." 

The  door  creaked :  a  lad  came  out  with  a  cudgel  and 
went  on  in  front,  at  one  time  pointing  out  the  road,  at  another 
searching  for  it  among  the  drifted  snow. 

"What  is  the  time?"  Vladimir  asked  him. 

354  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

"It  will  soon  be  daylight,"  replied  the  young  peasant, 
Vladimir  spoke  not  another  word. 

The  cocks  were  crowing,  and  it  was  already  light  when 
they  reached  Jadrino.  The  church  was  closed.  Vladimir 
paid  the  guide  and  drove  into  the  priest's  courtyard.  His 
sledge  was  not  there.     What  news  awaited  him  ! 

But  let  us  return  to  the  worthy  proprietors  of  Nenaradova, 
and  see  what  is  happening  there. 


The  old  people  awoke  and  went  into  the  parlour,  Gavril 
Gavrilovitch  in  a  night-cap  and  flannel  doublet,  Praskovia 
Petrovna  in  a  wadded  dressing-gown.  The  tea-urn  was 
brought  in,  and  Gavril  Gavrilovitch  sent  a  servant  to  ask 
Maria  Gavrilovna  how  she  was  and  how  she  had  passed  the 
night.  The  servant  returned,  saying  that  the  young  lady 
had  not  slept  very  well,  but  that  she  felt  better  now,  and 
that  she  would  come  down  presently  into  the  parlour.  And 
indeed,  the  door  opened  and  Maria  Gavrilovna  entered  the 
room  and  wished  her  father  and  mother  good  morning. 

"  How  is  your  head,  Masha  ?  "  asked  Gavril  Gavrilovitch. 

"  Better,  papa,"  replied  Masha. 

"Very  likely  you  inhaled  the  fumes  from  the  charcoal 
yesterday,"  said  Praskovia  Petrovna. 

*'  Very  likely,  mamma,"  replied  Masha. 

The  day  passed  happily  enough,  but  in  the  night  Masha 
was  taken  ill.  A  doctor  was  sent  for  from  the  town.  He 
arrived  in  the  evening  and  found  the  sick  girl  delirious.  A 
violent  fever  ensued,  and  for  two  weeks  the  poor  patient 
hovered  on  the  brink  of  the  grave. 

Nobody  in  the  house  knew  anything  about  her  flight.  The 
letters,  written  by  her  the  evening  before,  had  been  burnt ; 
and  her  maid,  dreading  the  wrath  of  her  master,  had  not 
whispered  a  word  about  it  to  anybody.  The  priest,  the 
retired  cornet,   the  moustached  surveyor,   and  the  Httle 


Uhlan  were  discreet,  and  not  without  reason.  Tereshka, 
the  coachman,  never  uttered  one  word  too  much  about  it, 
even  when  he  was  drunk.  Thus  the  secret  was  kept  by 
more  than  half-a-dozen  conspirators. 

But  Maria  Gavrilovna  herself  divulged  her  secret  during  her 
delirious  ravings.  But  her  words  were  so  disconnected,  that 
her  mother,  who  never  left  her  bedside,  could  only  under- 
stand from  them  that  her  daughter  was  deeply  in  love  with 
Vladimir  Nikolaievitch,  and  that  probably  love  was  the 
cause  of  her  illness.  She  consulted  her  husband  and  some 
of  her  neighbours,  and  at  last  it  was  unanimously  decided 
that  such  was  evidently  Maria  Gavrilovna's  fate,  that  a 
woman  cannot  ride  away  from  the  man  who  is  destined  to 
be  her  husband,  that  poverty  is  not  a  crime,  that  one  does 
not  marry  wealth,  but  a  man,  etc.,  etc.  Moral  proverbs  are 
wonderfully  useful  in  those  cases  where  we  can  invent  little 
in  our  own  justification. 

In  the  meantime  the  young  lady  began  to  recover. 
Vladimir  had  not  been  seen  for  a  long  time  in  the  house  of 
Gavril  Gavrilovitch.  He  was  afraid  of  the  usual  reception. 
It  was  resolved  to  send  and  announce  to  him  an  unexpected 
piece  of  good  news :  the  consent  of  Maria's  parents  to  his 
marriage  with  their  daughter.  But  what  was  the  astonish- 
ment of  the  proprietor  of  Nenaradova,  when,  in  reply  to 
their  invitation,  they  received  from  him  a  half-insane  letter. 
He  informed  them  that  he  would  never  set  foot  in  theii 
house  again,  and  begged  them  to  forget  an  unhappy  creature 
whose  only  hope  was  in  death.  A  few  days  afterwards  they 
heard  that  Vladimir  had  joined  the  army  again.  This  was 
in  the  year  1812. 

For  a  long  time  they  did  not  dare  to  announce  this  to 
Masha,  who  was  now  convalescent.  She  never  mentioned 
the  name  of  Vladimir.  Some  months  afterwards,  finding 
his  name  in  the  list  of  those  who  had  distingui«hed  them- 


356  poushkin's  prose  tales, 

selves  and  been  severely  wounded  at  Borodino,^  she  fainted 
away,  and  it  was  feared  that  she  would  have  another  attack 
of  fever.  But,  Heaven  be  thanked  !  the  fainting  fit  had  no 
serious  consequences. 

Another  misfortune  fell  upon  her:  Gavril  Gavrilovitch 
died,  leaving  her  the  heiress  to  all  his  property.  But  the 
inheritance  did  not  console  her;  she  shared  sincerely  the 
grief  of  poor  Praskovia  Petrovna,  vowing  that  she  would 
never  leave  her.  They  both  quitted  Nenaradova,  the  scene 
of  so  many  sad  recollections,  and  went  to  live  on  another 

Suitors  crowded  round  the  young  and  wealthy  heiress,  but 
she  gave  not  the  slightest  hope  to  any  of  them.  Her  mother 
sometimes  exhorted  her  to  make  a  choice;  but  Maria 
Gavrilovna  shook  her  head  and  became  pensive.  Vladimir 
no  longer  existed  :  he  had  died  in  Moscow  on  the  eve  of  the 
entry  of  the  French.  His  memory  seemed  to  be  held 
sacred  by  Masha ;  at  least  she  treasured  up  everything  that 
could  remind  her  of  him  :  books  that  he  had  once  read,  his 
drawings,  his  notes,  and  verses  of  poetry  that  he  had  copied 
out  for  her.  The  neighbours,  hearing  of  all  this,  were 
astonished  at  her  constancy,  and  awaited  with  curiosity  the 
hero  who  should  at  last  triumph  over  the  melancholy  fidelity 
of  this  virgin  Artemisia. 

Meanwhile  the  war  had  ended  gloriously.  Our  regiments 
returned  from  abroad,  and  the  people  went  out  to  meet 
them.  The  bands  played  the  conquering  songs :  "  Vive 
Henri-Quatre,"  Tyrolese  waltzes  and  airs  from  *' Joconde." 
Officers,  who  had  set  out  for  the  war  almost  mere  lads, 
returned  grown  men,  with  martial  air,  and  their  breasts 
decorated  with  crosses.     The  soldiers  chatted  gaily  among 

'  A  village  about  fifty  miles  from  Moscow,  and  the  scene  of  a  san- 
guinary battle  between  the  French  and  Russian  forces  during  the 
invasion  of  pfhssia  by  Napoleon  I. 


themselves,  constantly  mingling  French  and  German  words 
in  their  speech.  Time  never  to  be  forgotten  !  Time  of 
glory  and  enthusiasm  !  How  throbbed  the  Russian  heart  at 
the  word  "  Fatherland  ! "  How  sweet  were  the  tears  of 
meeting !  With  what  unanimity  did  we  unite  feelings  of 
national  pride  with  love  for  the  Czar  !  And  for  him— what 
a  moment ! 

The  women,  the  Russian  women,  were  then  incomparable. 
Their  usual  coldness  disappeared.  Their  enthusiasm  was 
truly  intoxicating,  when  welcoming  the  conquerors  they 
cried  "Hurrah!" 

*'  And  threw  their  caps  high  in  the  air !  "  ' 

What  officer  of  that  time  does  not  confess  that  to  the 
Russian  women  he  was  indebted  for  his  best  and  most 
precious  reward  ? 

At  this  brilliant  period  Maria  Gavrilovna  was  living  with 

her  mother  in  the  province  of  ,  and  did  not  see  how 

both  capitals  celebrated  the  return  of  the  troops.  But  in 
the  districts  and  villages  the  general  enthusiasm  was,  if 
possible,  even  still  greater.  The  appearance  of  an  officer  in 
those  places  was  for  him  a  veritable  triumph,  and  the  lover 
in  a  plain  coat  felt  very  ill  at  ease  in  his  vicinity. 

We  have  already  said  that,  in  spite  of  her  coldness,  Maria 
Gavrilovna  was,  as  before,  surrounded  by  suitors.  But  all 
had  to  retire  into  the  background  when  the  wounded 
Colonel  Bourmin  of  the  Hussars,  with  the  Order  of  St.  George 
in  his  button-hole,  and  with  an  "  interesting  pallor,"  as  the 
young  ladies  of  the  neighbourhood  observed,  appeared  at 
the  castle.  He  was  about  twenty-six  years  of  age.  He  had 
obtained  leave  of  absence  to  visit  his  estate,  which  was  con- 
tiguous to  that  of  Maria  Gavrilovna.  Maria  bestowed 
special  attention  upon  him.     In  his  presence  her  habitual 

*  Griboiedoif. 


pensiveness  disappeared.  It  cannot  be  said  that  she 
coquetted  with  him,  but  a  poet,  observing  her  behaviour, 
would  have  said : 

**  Se  amor  non  h,  che  dunque  ?" 

Bourmin  was  indeed  a  very  charming  young  man.  He 
possessed  that  spirit  which  is  eminently  pleasing  to  women : 
a  spirit  of  decorum  and  observation,  without  any  preten- 
sions, and  yet  not  without  a  slight  tendency  towards  careless 
satire.  His  behaviour  towards  Maria  Gavrilovna  was 
simple  and  frank,  but  whatever  she  said  or  did,  his  soul  and 
eyes  followed  her.  He  seemed  to  be  of  a  quiet  and  modest 
disposition,  though  report  said  that  he  had  once  been  a 
terrible  rake;  but  this  did  not  injure  him  in  the  opinion  of 
Maria  Gavrilovna,  who — like  all  young  ladies  in  general — 
excused  with  pleasure  follies  that  gave  indication  of  boldness 
and  ardour  of  temperament. 

But  more  than  everything  else — more  than  his  tenderness, 
more  than  his  agreeable  conversation,  more  than  his  interest- 
ing pallor^  more  than  his  arm  in  a  sling, — the  silence  of  the 
young  Hussar  excited  her  curiosity  and  imagination.  She 
could,  not  but  confess  that  he  pleased  her  very  much  ;  pro- 
bably he,  too,  with  his  perception  and  experience,  had 
already  observed  that  she  made  a  distinction  between  him 
and  others ;  how  was  it  then  that  she  had  not  yet  seen  him 
at  her  feet  or  heard  his  declaration?  What  restrained  him? 
Was  it  timidity,  inseparable  from  true  love,  or  pride,  or  the 
coquetry  of  a  crafty  wooer?  It  was  an  enigma  to  her. 
After  long  reflection,  she  came  to  the  conclusion  that 
timidity  alone  was  the  cause  of  it,  and  she  resolved  to 
encourage  him  by  greater  attention  and,  if  circumstances 
should  render  it  necessary,  even  by  an  exhibition  of  tender- 
ness. She  prepared  a  most  unexpected  denouement,  and 
waited  with  impatience  for  the  moment  of  the  romantic 


explanation.  A  secet,  of  whatever  nature  it  may  be,  always 
presses  heavily  upon  the  female  heart.  Her  stratagem  had 
the  desired  success;  at  least  Bourmin  fell  into  such  a 
reverie,  and  his  black  eyes  rested  with  such  fire  upon  her, 
that  the  decisive  moment  seemed  close  at  hand.  The 
neighbours  spoke  about  the  marriage  as  if  it  were  a  matter 
already  decided  upon,  and  good  Praskovia  Petrovna 
rejoiced  that  her  daughter  had  at  last  found  a  lover  worthy 
of  her. 

On  one  occasion  the  old  lady  was  sitting  alone  in  the 
parlour,  amusing  herself  with  a  pack  of  cards,  when  Bourmin 
entered  the  room  and  immediately  inquired  for  Maria 

*'  She  is  in  the  garden,"  replied  the  old  lady :  "  go  out  to 
her,  and  I  will  wait  here  for  you." 

Bourmin  went,  and  the  old  lady  made  the  sign  of  the 
cross  and  thought :  "  Perhaps  the  business  will  be  settled 
to-day ! " 

Bourmin  found  Maria  Gavrilovna  near  the  pond,  under  a 
willow-tree,^  with  a  book  in  her  hands,  and  in  a  white  dress  : 
a  veritable  heroine  of  romance.  After  the  first  few  questions 
and  observations,  Maria  Gavrilovna  purposely  allowed  the 
conversation  to  drop,  thereby  increasing  their  mutual 
embarrassment,  from  which  there  was  no  possible  way  of 
escape  except  only  by  a  sudden  and  decisive  declaration. 

And  this  is  what  happened  :  Bourmin,  feeling  the  difficulty 
of  his  position,  declared  that  he  had  long  sought  for  an 
opportunity  to  open  his  heart  to  her,  and  requested  a 
moment's  attention.  Maria  Gavrilovna  closed  her  book 
and  cast  down  her  eyes,  as  a  sign  of  compliance  with  his 

"  I  love  you,"  said  Bourmin :  '*  I  love  you  passionately. 

Maria   Gavrilovna   blushed  and   lowered  her  head  still 

36o  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

more.  "  I  have  acted  imprudently  in  accustoming  myself 
to  the  sweet  pleasure  of  seeing  and  hearing  you  daily.  .  .  ." 
Maria  Gavrilovna  recalled  to  mind  the  first  letter  of  St. 
Preux.^  ''But  it  is  now  too  late  to  resist  my  fate;  the 
remembrance  of  you,  your  dear  incomparable  image,  will 
henceforth  be  the  torment  and  the  consolation  of  my  Hfe, 
but  there  still  remains  a  grave  duty  for  me  to  perform — to 
reveal  to  you  a  terrible  secret  which  will  place  between  us 
an  insurmountable  barrier.  .  .  ." 

"  That  barrier  has  always  existed,"  interrupted  Maria 
Gavrilovna  hastily  :  "  I  could  never  be  your  wife." 

"  I  know,"  replied  he  calmly :  "  I  know  that  you  once 
loved,  but  death  and  three  years  of  mourning.  .  .  .  Dear, 
kind  Maria  Gavrilovna,  do  not  try  to  deprive  me  of  my  last 
consolation  :  the  thought  that  you  would  have  consented  to 
make  me  happy,  if " 

"Don't  speak,  for  Heaven's  sake,  don't  speak.  You 
torture  me." 

"  Yes,  I  know,  I  feel  that  you  would  have  been  mine, 
but — I  am  the  most  miserable  creature  under  the  sun — I  am 
already  married ! " 

Maria  Gavrilovna  looked  at  him  in  astonishment. 

"  I  am  already  married,"  continued  Bourmin :  "  I  have 
been  married  four  years,  and  I  do  not  know  who  is  my  wife, 
or  where  she  is,  or  whether  I  shall  ever  see  her  again ! " 

"  What  do  you  say  ? "  exclaimed  Maria  Gavrilovna. 
"  How  very  strange  !  Continue  :  I  will  relate  to  you  after- 
wards.  .  .  .  But  continue,  I  beg  of  you." 

"At  the  beginning  of  the  year  1812,"  said  Bourmin,  "I 
was  hastening  to  Vilna,  where  my  regiment  was  stationed. 
Arriving  late  one  evening  at  one  of  the  post-stations, 
I  ordered  the  horses  to  be  got  ready  as  quickly  as  possible, 

^  In  "La  Nouvelle  Heloise,"  by  Jean-Jacques  Rousseau. 


when  suddenly  a  terrible  snowstorm  came  on,  and  the  post- 
master and  drivers  advised  me  to  wait  till  it  had  passed 
over.  I  followed  their  advice,  but  an  unaccountable  un- 
easiness took  possession  of  me  :  it  seemed  as  if  someone 
were  pushing  me  forward.  Meanwhile  the  snowstorm  did 
not  subside  ;  I  could  endure  it  no  longer,  and  again  order- 
ing out  the  horses,  I  started  off  in  the  midst  of  the  storm. 
The  driver  conceived  the  idea  of  following  the  course  of  the 
river,  which  would  shorten  our  journey  by  three  versts. 
The  banks  were  covered  with  snow :  the  driver  drove  past 
the  place  where  we  should  have  come  out  upon  the  road, 
and  so  we  found  ourselves  in  an  unknown  part  of  the 
country.  .  .  .  The  storm  did  not  cease ;  I  saw  a  light  in  the 
distance,  and  I  ordered  the  driver  to  proceed  towards  it. 
We  reached  a  village ;  in  the  wooden  church  there  was 
a  light.  The  church  was  open.  Outside  the  railings  stood 
several  sledges,  and  people  were  passing  in  and  out  through 
the  porch. 

"  *  This  way  !  this  way  ! '  cried  several  voices. 

"  I  ordered  the  driver  to  proceed. 

*' '  In  the  name  of  Heaven,  where  have  you  been  loiter- 
ing ? '  said  somebody  to  me.  '  The  bride  has  fainted  away ; 
the  pope  does  not  know  what  to  do,  and  we  were  just  getting 
ready  to  go  back.     Get  out  as  quickly  as  you  can.' 

"  I  got  out  of  the  sledge  without  saying  a  word,  and  went 
into  the  church,  which  was  feebly  lit  up  by  two  or  three 
tapers.  A  young  girl  was  sitting  on  a  bench  in  a  dark 
corner  of  the  church;  another  girl  was  rubbing  her 

"  '  Thank  God  ! '  said  the  latter,  '  you  have  come  at  last. 
Vou  have  almost  killed  the  young  lady.' 

"  The  old  priest  advanced  towards  me,  and  said : 

" '  Do  you  wish  me  to  begin  ? ' 

'*  *  Begin,  begin,  father,'  replied  I,  absently. 


"  The  young  girl  was  raised  up.  She  seemed  to  me  not 
at  all  bad-looking.  .  .  .  Impelled  by  an  incomprehensible, 
unpardonable  levity,  I  placed  myself  by  her  side  in  front  of 
the  pulpit ;  the  priest  hurried  on ;  three  men  and  a  chamber- 
maid supported  the  bride  and  only  occupied  themselves 
with  her.     We  were  married. 

"  *  Kiss  each  other  ! '  said  the  witnesses  to  us. 

**  My  wife  turned  her  pale  face  towards  me.  I  was  about 
to  kiss  her,  when  she  exclaimed  :  *  Oh  !  it  is  not  he  !  it  is  not 
he  ! '  and  fell  senseless. 

"  The  witnesses  gazed  at  me  in  alarm.  I  turned  round 
and  left  the  church  without  the  least  hindrance,  flung  myself 
into  the  kibitka  and  cried  :  *  Drive  off!' 

"  My  God  ! "  exclaimed  Maria  Gavrilovna.  "  And  you  do 
not  know  what  became  of  your  poor  wife  ?  " 

"  I  do  not  know,"  replied  Bourmin  ;  "  neither  do  I  know 
the  name  of  the  village  where  I  was  married,  nor  the  post- 
station  where  I  set  out  from.  At  that  time  I  attached 
so  little  importance  to  my  wicked  prank,  that  on  leaving 
the  church,  I  fell  asleep,  and  did  not  awake  till  the  next 
morning  aftei  leaching  the  third  station.  The  servant,  who 
was  then  with  me,  died  during  the  campaign,  so  that  I  have 
no  hope  of  ever  discovering  the  woman  upon  whom  I  played 
such  a  cruel  joke,  and  who  is  now  so  cruelly  avenged." 

"  My  God  !  my  God  !  "  cried  Maria  Gavrilovna,  seizing 
him  by  the  hand  :  *'  then  it  was  you  !  And  you  do  not 
recognize  me  ?  " 

Bourmin  turned  pale — and  threw  himself  at  her  feet. 




WHO  has  not  cursed  postmasters,  who  has  not  quarrelled 
with  them  ?  Who,  in  a  moment  of  anger,  has  not  de- 
manded from  them  the  fatal  book  in  order  to  record  in  it 
unavailing  complaints  of  their  extortions,  rudeness  and 
unpunctuality  ?  Who  does  not  look  upon  them  as  monsters 
of  the  human  race,  equal  to  the  defunct  attorneys,  or,  at 
least,  the  brigands  of  Mourom  ?  Let  us,  however,  be  just ; 
let  us  place  ourselves  in  their  position,  and  perhaps  we  shall 
begin  to  judge  them  with  more  indulgence.  What  is  a 
postmaster?  A  veritable  martyr  of  the  fourteenth  class,^  only 
protected  by  his  rank  from  blows,  and  that  not  always 
(I  appeal  to  the  conscience  of  my  readers).  What  is 
the  function  of  this  dictator,  as  Prince  Viazemsky  jokingly 
calls  him  ?  Is  he  not  an  actual  galley-slave  ?  He  has 
no  rest  either  day  or  night.  All  the  vexation  accumulated 
during  the  course  of  a  wearisome  journey  the  traveller  vents 
upon  the  postmaster.  Should  the  weather  prove  intoler- 
able, the  road  abominable,  the  driver  obstinate,  the  horses 
ungovernable — the  postmaster  is  to  blame.  Entering  into 
his  poor  abode,  the  traveller  looks  upon  him  as  an  enemy, 
and  the  postmaster  is  fortunate  if  he  succeeds  in  soon 
getting  rid  of  his  uninvited  guest ;  but  if  there  should 
happen  to  be  no  horses  !  .  .  .  Heavens  !   what  volleys  of 

^  The  Chinnovniks,  or  official  nobles  of  Russia,  are  divided  into 
fourteen  classes,  the  fourteenth  being  the  lowest.  The  members  of  this 
latter  class  were  formerly  little  removed  from  serfs. 


abuse,  what  threats  are  showered  upon  his  head !  In 
rain  and  sleet  he  is  compelled  to  go  out  into  the  court- 
yard ;  during  times  of  storm  and  nipping  frost,  he  is 
glad  to  seek  shelter  in  the  vestibule,  if  only  to  enjoy  a 
minute's  repose  from  the  shouting  and  jostling  of  incensed 

A  general  arrives :  the  trembling  postmaster  gives  him 
the  two  last  troikas^  including  that  intended  for  the  courier. 
The  general  drives  off  without  uttering  a  word  of  thanks. 
Five  minutes  afterwards — a  bell !  .  .  .  and  a  courier  throws 
down  upon  the  table  before  him .  his  order  for  fresh 
post-horses  !  .  .  Let  us  bear  all  this  well  in  mind,  and, 
instead  of  anger,  our  hearts  will  be  filled  with  sincere  com- 
passion. A  few  words  more.  Inuring  a  period  of  twenty 
years  I  have  traversed  Russia  in  every  direction ;  I  know 
nearly  all  the  post  roads,  and  I  have  made  the  acquaintance' 
of  several  generations  of  drivers.  There  are  very  few  post- 
masters that  I  do  not  know  personally,  and  few  with  whom 
I  have  not  had  business  relations.  In  the  course  of  time  I 
hope  to  publish  some  curious  observations  that  I  have  noted 
down  during  my  travels.  For  the  present  I  will  only  say 
that  the  body  of  postmasters  is  presented  to  the  public  in  a 
very  false  light.  These  much-calumniated  officials  are  gener- 
ally very  peaceful  persons,  obliging  by  nature,  disposed  to 
be  sociable,  modest  in  their  pretensions  and  not  too  much 
addicted  to  the  love  of  money.  From  their  conversation 
(which  travelling  gentlemen  very  unreasonably  despise) 
much  may  be  learnt  that  is  both  interesting  and  instructive. 
For  my  own  part,  I  confess  that  I  prefer  their  talk 
to  that  of  some  official  of  the  sixth  class  travelling  on 
government  business. 

It  may  easily  be  supposed  that  I  have  friends  among  the 
honourable  body  of  postmasters.  Indeed,  the  memory  of 
one  of  them  is  dear  to  me.     Circumstances  once  brought 


US  together,  and  it  is  of  him  that  I  now  intend  to  tell 
my  amiable  readers. 

In  the  month  of  May  of  the  year  1816,  I  happened  to  be 

travelling  through  the  Government  of  N ,  upon  a  road 

now  destroyed.  I  then  held  an  inferior  rank,  and  I  travelled 
by  post  stages,  paying  the  fare  for  two  horses.  As  a  conse- 
quence, the  postmasters  treated  me  with  very  little  cere- 
mony, and  I  often  had  to  take  by  force  what,  in  my  opinion, 
belonged  to  me  by  right.  Being  young  and  passionate,  I 
was  indignant  at  the  baseness  and  cowardice  of  the  post- 
master, when  the  latter  harnessed  to  the  caliche  of  some 
official  noble,  the  horses  prepared  for  me.  It  was  a  long 
time,  too,  before  I  could  get  accustomed  to  being  served 
out  of  my  turn  by  a  discriminating  servant  at  the  governor's 
dinner.  To-day  the  one  and  the  other  seem  to  me  to  be 
in  the  natural  order  of  things.  Indeed,  what  would  become 
of  us,  if,  instead  of  the  generally  observed  rule  :  '*  Let  rank 
honour  rank,"  another  were  to  be  brought  into  use,  as  for 
example  :  "  Let  mind  honour  mind  ?  "  What  disputes  would 
arise  !  And  with  whom  would  the  servants  begin  in  serving 
the  dishes?   But  to  return  to  my  story. 

The  day  was  hot.     About  three  versts  from  A ,  a 

drizzling  rain  came  on,  and  in  a  few  minutes  it  began  to 
pour  down  in  torrents  and  I  was  drenched  to  the  skin.  On 
arriving  at  the  station,  my  first  care  was  to  change  my 
clothes  as  quickly  as  possible,  my  second  to  ask  for  some  tea. 

**  Hi !  Dounia  ! "  ^  cried  the  Postmaster  :  **  prepare  the 
tea-urn  and  go  and  get  some  cream." 

At  these  words,  a  young  girl  of  about  fourteen  years  of 
age  appeared  from  behind  the  partition,  and  ran  out  into 
the  vestibule.     Her  beauty  struck  me. 

**  Is  that  your  daughter  ?  "  I  inquired  of  the  Postmaster. 

*  Diminutive  of  Avdotia. 


"  That  is  my  daughter,"  he  replied,  with  a  look  of  gratified 
pride ;  **  and  she  is  so  sharp  and  sensible,  just  like  her  late 

Then  he  began  to  register  my  travelling  passport,  and  I 
occupied  myself  with  examining  the  pictures  that  adorned 
his  humble  abode.  They  illustrated  the  story  of  the 
Prodigal  Son.  In  the  first,  a  venerable  old  man,  in  a 
night-cap  and  dressing-gown,  is  taking  leave  of  the  restless 
youth,  who  is  eagerly  accepting  his  blessing  and  a  bag  of 
money.  In  the  next  picture,  the  dissipated  life  of  the 
young  man  is  depicted  in  vivid  colours :  he  is  represented 
sitting  at  a  table  surrounded  by  false  friends  and  shameless 
women.  Further  on,  the  ruined  youth,  in  rags  and  a  three- 
cornered  hat,  is  tending  swine  and  sharing  with  them  their 
food :  on  his  face  is  expressed  deep  grief  and  repentance. 
The  last  picture  represented  his  return  to  his  father :  the 
good  old  man,  in  the  same  night-cap  and  dressing-gown, 
runs  forward  to  meet  him;  the  prodigal  son  falls  on  his 
knees;  in  the  distance  the  cook  is  killing  the  fatted  calf, 
and  the  elder  brother  is  asking  the  servants  the  cause  of  all 
the  rejoicing.  Under  each  picture  I  read  some  suitable 
German  verses.  All  this  I  have  preserved  in  my  memory 
to  the  present  day,  as  well  as  the  little  pots  of  balsams,  the 
bed  with  speckled  curtains,  and  the  other  objects  with 
which  I  was  then  surrounded.  I  can  see  at  the  present 
moment  the  host  himself,  a  man  of  about  fifty  years  of  age, 
fresh  and  strong,  in  his  long  green  surtout  with  three  medals 
on  faded  ribbons. 

I  had  scarcely  settled  my  account  with  my  old  driver, 
when  Dounia  returned  with  the  tea-urn.  The  little  coquette 
saw  at  the  second  glance  the  impression  she  had  produced 
upon  me ;  she  lowered  her  large  blue  eyes ;  I  began  to  talk 
to  her;  she  answered  me  without  the  least  timidity,  like  a 
girl  who  has  seen  the  world.     I  offered  her  father  a  glass  of 


punch,  to  Dounia  herself  I  gave  a  cup  of  tea,  and  then  the 
three  of  us  began  to  converse  together,  as  if  we  were  old 

The  horses  had  long  been  ready,  but  I  felt  reluctant  to 
take  leave  of  the  Postmaster  and  his  daughter.  At  last  I 
bade  them  good-bye,  the  father  wished  me  a  pleasant 
journey,  the  daughter  accompanied  me  to  the  telega.  In 
the  vestibule  I  stopped  and  asked  her  permission  to  kiss 
her;  Dounia  consented.  ...  I  can  reckon  up  a  great 
many  kisses  since  that  time,  but  not  one  which  has  left 
behind  such  a  long,  such  a  pleasant  recollection. 

Several  years  passed,  and  circumstances  led  me  to  the 
same  road,  and  to  the  same  places. 

"But,"  thought  I,  ''perhaps  the  old  Postmaster  has  been 
changed,  and  Dounia  may  already  be  married." 

The  thought  that  one  or  the  other  of  them  might  be  dead 
also  flashed  through  my  mind,  and  I  approached  the  station 

of  A with  a  sad  presentiment.     The  horses  drew  up 

before  the  little  post-house.  On  entering  the  room,  I 
immediately  recognized  the  pictures  illustrating  the  story  of 
the  Prodigal  Son.  The  table  and  the  bed  stood  in  the 
same  places  as  before,  but  the  flowers  were  no  longer  on 
the  window-sills,  and  everything  around  indicated  decay 
and  neglect.  ^ 

The  Postmaster  was  asleep  under  his  sheep-skin  pelisse ; 
my  arrival  awoke  him,  and  he  rose  up.  .  .  .  It  was  certainly 
Simeon  Virin,  but  how  aged  !  While  he  was  preparing  to 
register  my  travelling  passport,  I  gazed  at  his  grey  hairs, 
the  deep  wrinkles  upon  his  face,  that  had  not  been  shaved 
for  a  long  time,  his  bent  back,  and  I  was  astonished  to  see 
how  three  or  four  years  had  been  able  to  transform  a  strong 
and  active  individual  into  a  feeble  old  man. 

"Do  you  recognize  me?"  I  asked  him:  "we  are  old 

370         POUSHKIN  S  PROSE  TALES. 

**  May  be,"  replied  he  mournfully ;  "  this  is  a  high  road, 
and  many  travellers  have  stopped  here." 

"  Is  your  Dounia  well?"  I  continued. 

The  old  man  frowned. 

"  God  knows,"  he  replied. 

**  Probably  she  is  married  ?  "  said  I. 

The  old  man  pretended  not  to  have  heard  my  question, 
and  went  on  reading  my  passport  in  a  low  tone.  I  ceased 
questioning  him  and  ordered  some  tea.  Curiosity  began  to 
torment  me,  and  I  hoped  that  the  punch  would  loosen  the 
tongue  of  my  old  acquaintance. 

I  was  not  mistaken;  the  old  man  did  not  refuse  the 
proffered  glass.  I  observed  that  the  rum  dispelled  his 
mournfulness.  At  the  second  glass  he  began  to  talk;  he 
remembered  me,  or  appeared  as  if  he  remembered  me,  and 
I  heard  from  him  a  story,  which  at  the  time,  deeply  in- 
terested and  affected  me. 

"So  you  knew  my  Dounia?"  he  began.  "But  who  did 
not  know  her?  Ah,  Dounia,  Dounia!  What  a  girl  she 
was  !  Everybody  who  passed  this  way  praised  her ;  nobody 
had  a  word  to  say  against  her.  The  ladies  used  to  give  her 
presents — now  a  handkerchief,  now  a  pair  of  earrings.  The 
gentlemen  used  to  stop  intentionally,  as  if  to  dine  or  to  take 
supper,  but  in  reality  only  to  take  a  longer  look  at  her. 
However  angry  a  gentleman  might  be,  in  her  presence  he 
grew  calm  and  spoke  graciously  to  me.  Would  you  believe 
it,  sir:  couriers  and  Court  messengers  used  to  talk  to  her 
for  half-hours  at  a  stretch.  It  was  she  who  kept  the  house ; 
she  put  everything  in  order,  got  everything  ready,  and 
looked  after  everything.  And  I,  like  an  old  fool,  could  not 
look  at  her  enough,  could  not  idolize  her  enough.  Did  I 
not  love  my  Dounia  ?  Did  I  not  indulge  my  child  ?  Was 
not  her  life  a  happy  one  ?  But  no,  there  is  no  escaping 
misfortune :  there  is  no  evading  what  has  been  decreed." 


Then  he  began  to  tell  me  his  sorrow  in  detail.  Three 
years  before,  one  winter  evening,  when  the  Postmaster  was 
ruling  a  new  book,  and  his  daughter  behind  the  partition 
was  sewing  a  dress,  a  troika  drove  up,  and  a  traveller  in  a 
Circassian  cap  and  military  cloak,  and  enveloped  in  a  shawl, 
entered  the  room  and  demanded  horses.  The  horses  were 
all  out.  On  being  told  this,  the  traveller  raised  his  voice  and 
whip  ;  but  Dounia,  accustomed  to  such  scenes,  ran  out  from 
behind  the  partition  and  graciously  inquired  of  the  traveller 
whether  he  would  not  like  something  to  eat  and  drink. 

The  appearance  of  Dounia  produced  the  usual  effect. 
The  traveller's  anger  subsided;  he  consented  to  wait  for 
horses,  and  ordered  supper.  Having  taken  off  his  wet 
shaggy  cap,  and  divested  himself  of  his  shawl  and  cloak, 
the  traveller  was  seen  to  be  a  tall,  young  Hussar  with  a 
black  moustache  He  made  himself  comfortable  with  the 
Postmaster,  and  began  to  converse  in  a  pleasant  manner 
with  him  and  his  daughter.  Supper  was  served.  Mean- 
while the  horses  returned,  and  the  Postmaster  ordered 
them,  without  being  fed,  to  be  harnessed  immediately  to 
the  traveller's  kibitka.  But  on  returning  to  the  room,  he 
found  the  young  man  lying  almost  unconscious  on  the 
bench ;  he  had  come  over  faint,  his  head  ached,  it  was 
impossible  for  him  to  continue  his  journey.  What  was  to 
be  done?  The  Postmaster  gave  up  his  own  bed  to  him, 
and  it  was  decided  that  if  the  sick  man  did  not  get  better, 
they  would  send  next  day  to  C for  the  doctor. 

The  next  day  the  Hussar  was  worse.  His  servant  rode 
to  the  town  for  the  doctor.  Dounia  bound  round  his  head 
a  handkerchief  steeped  in  vinegar,  and  sat  with  her  needle- 
work beside  his  bed.  In  the  presence  of  the  Postmaster, 
the  sick  man  sighed  and  scarcely  uttered  a  word ;  but  he 
drank  two  cups  of  coffee,  and,  with  a  sigh,  ordered  dinner. 
Dounia  did  not  quit  his  side.     He  constantly  asked  for 




something  to  drink,  and  Dounia  gave  him  a  jug  of  lemonade 
prepared  by  herself.  The  sick  man  moistened  his  lips,  and 
each  time,  on  returning  the  jug,  he  feebly  pressed  Dounia's 
hand  in  token  of  gratitude. 

About  dinner  time  the  doctor  arrived.  He  felt  the  sick 
man's  pulse,  spoke  to  him  in  German,  and  declared  in 
Russian  that  he  only  needed  rest,  and  that  in  about  a  couple 
of  days  he  would  be  able  to  set  out  on  his  journey.  The 
Hussar  gave  him  twenty-five  roubles  for  his  visit,  and 
invited  him  to  dinner;  the  doctor  accepted  the  invitation. 
They  both  ate  with  a  good  appetite,  drank  a  bottle  of  wine, 
and  separated  very  well  satisfied  with  each  other. 

Another  day  passed,  and  the  Hussar  felt  quite  himself 
again.  He  was  extraordinarily  lively,  joked  unceasingly, 
now  with  Dounia,  now  with  the  Postmaster,  whistled  tunes, 
chatted  with  the  travellers,  copied  their  passports  into  the 
post-book,  and  so  won  upon  the  worthy  Postmaster,  that 
when  the  third  day  arrived,  it  was  with  regret  that  he  parted 
with  his  amiable  guest 

The  day  was  Sunday;  Dounia  was  preparing  to  go  to 
mass.  The  Hussar's  kibitka  stood  ready.  He  took  leave 
of  the  Postmaster,  after  having  generously  recompensed 
him  for  his  board  and  lodging,  bade  farewell  to  Dounia, 
and  offered  to  drive  her  as  far  as  the  church,  which  was 
situated  at  the  end  of  the  village.     Dounia  hesitated. 

"What  are  you  afraid  of?"  asked  her  father.  *'His 
Excellency  is  not  a  wolf :  he  won't  eat  you.  Drive  with  him 
as  far  as  the  church." 

Dounia  seated  herself  in  the  kibitka  by  the  side  of  the 
Hussar,  the  servant  sprang  upon  the  box,  the  driver  whistled, 
and  the  horses  started  off  at  a  gallop. 

The  poor  Postmaster  could  not  understand  how  he  could 
have  allowed  his  Dounia  to  drive  off"  with  the  Hussar,  how 
he  could  have  been  so  blind,  and  what  had  become  of  his 


senses  at  that  moment.  A  half-hour  had  not  elapsed, 
before  his  heart  began  to  grieve,  and  anxiety  and  uneasiness 
took  possession  of  him  to  such  a  degree,  that  he  could  con- 
tain himself  no  longer,  and  started  off  for  mass  himself. 
On  reaching  the  church,  he  saw  that  the  people  were 
already  beginning  to  disperse,  but  Dounia  was  neither  in 
the  churchyard  nor  in  the  porch.  He  hastened  into  the 
church :  the  priest  was  leaving  the  altar,  the  clerk  was  ex- 
tinguishing the  candles,  two  old  women  were  still  praying 
in  a  corner,  but  Dounia  was  not  in  the  church.  The  poor 
father  was  scarcely  able  to  summon  up  sufficient  resolution 
to  ask  the  clerk  if  she  had  been  to  mass.  The  clerk  replied 
that  she  had  not.  The  Postmaster  returned  home  neither 
alive  nor  dead.  One  hope  alone  remained  to  him : 
Dounia,  in  the  thoughtlessness  of  youth,  might  have  taken 
it  into  her  head  to  go  on  as  far  as  the  next  station,  where 
her  godmother  lived.  In  agonizing  agitation  he  awaited  the 
return  of  the  troika  in  which  he  had  let  her  set  out.  The 
driver  did  not  return.  At  last,  in  the  evening,  he  arrived 
alone  and  intoxicated,  with  the  terrible  news  that  Dounia 
had  gone  on  with  the  Hussar  at  the  other  station. 

The  old  man  could  not  bear  his  misfortune :  he  imme- 
diately took  to  that  very  same  bed  where,  the  evening 
before,  the  young  deceiver  had  lain.  Taking  all  the 
circumstances  into  account,  the  Postmaster  now  came  to 
the  conclusion  that  the  illness  had  been  a  mere  pretence. 
The  poor  man  fell  ill  with  a  violent  fever ;  he  was  removed 

to  C ,  and  in  his  place  another  person  was  appointed 

for  the  time  being.  The  same  doctor,  who  had  attended 
the  Hussar,  attended  him  also.  He  assured  the  Postmaster 
that  the  young  man  had  been  perfectly  well,  and  that  at  the 
time  of  his  visit  he  had  suspected  him  of  some  evil  inten- 
tion, but  that  he  had  kept  silent  through  fear  of  his  whip. 
Whether  the  German   spoke  the  truth  or  only  wished  to 

374      poushkin's  prose  tales. 

boast  of  his  perspicacity,  his  communication  afforded  no 
consolation  to  the  poor  invalid.  Scarcely  had  the  latter 
recovered  from  his  illness,  when  he  asked  the  Postmaster  of 

C for  two  months'  leave  of  absence,  and  without  saying 

a  word  to  anybody  of  his  intention,  he  set  out  on  foot  in 
search  of  his  daughter. 

From  the  travelling  passport  he  found  out  that  Captain 
Minsky  was  journeying  from  Smolensk  to  St.  Petersburg. 
The  yemshik  ^  who  drove  him,  said  that  Dounia  had  wept 
the  whole  of  the  way,  although  she  seemed  to  go  of  her 
own  free  will. 

"  Perhaps,"  thought  the  Postmaster,  "  I  shall  bring  back 
home  my  erring  ewe-lamb." 

With  this  thought  he  reached  St.  Petersburg,  stopped  at 
the  barracks  of  the  Ismailovsky  Regiment,  in  the  quarters 
of  a  retired  non-commissioned  officer,  an  old  comrade  of 
his,  and  then  began  his  search.  He  soon  discovered  that 
Captain  Minsky  was  in  St.  Petersburg,  and  was  living  at  the 
Demoutoff  Hotel.  The  Postmaster  resolved  to  call  upon 

Early  in  the  morning  he  went  to  Minsky's  ante-chamber, 
and  requested  that  His  Excellency  might  be  informed  that 
an  old  soldier  wished  to  see  him.  The  military  servant, 
who  was  cleaning  a  boot  on  a  boot-tree,  informed  him  that 
his  master  was  still  asleep,  and  that  he  never  received  any- 
body before  eleven  o'clock.  The  Postmaster  retired  and 
returned  at  the  appointed  time.  Minsky  himself  came  out 
to  him  in  his  dressing-gown  and  red  skull-cap. 

**  Well,  my  friend,  what  do  you  want  ?  "  he  asked. 

The  old  man's  heart  began  to  boil,  tears  started  to  his 
eyes,  and  he  was  only  able  to  say  in  a  trembling  voice : 

"  Your  Excellency  1  ...  do  me  the  divine  favour  !  .  .  • 

*  Driver. 


Minsky  glanced  quickly  at  him,  grew  confused,  took 
him  by  the  hand,  led  him  into  his  cabinet  and  locked  the 

"  Your  Excellency  ! "  continued  the  old  man :  "  what  has 
fallen  from  the  load  is  lost ;  give  me  back  at  least  my  poor 
Dounia.  You  have  made  her  your  plaything;  do  not  ruin 
her  entirely." 

"  What  is  done  cannot  be  undone,"  said  the  young  man, 
in  the  utmost  confusion ;  "  I  am  guilty  before  you,  and  am 
ready  to  ask  your  pardon,  but  do  not  think  that  I  could 
forsake  Dounia :  she  shall  be  happy,  I  give  you  my  word  of 
honour.  Why  do  you  want  her  ?  She  loves  me ;  she  has 
become  disused  to  her  former  existence.  Neither  you  nor 
she  will  forget  what  has  happened." 

Then,  pushing  something  up  the  old  man's  sleeve,  he 
opened  the  door,  and  the  Postmaster,  without  remembering 
how,  found  himself  in  the  street  again. 

For  a  long  time  he  stood  immovable;  at  last  he  ob- 
served in  the  cuff  of  his  sleeve  a  roll  of  papers ;  he  drew 
them  out  and  unrolled  several  fifty  rouble  notes.  Tears 
again  filled  his  eyes,  tears  of  indignation  !  He  crushed  the 
notes  into  a  ball,  flung  them  upon  the  ground,  stamped 
upon  them  with  the  heel  of  his  boot,  and  then  walked 
away.  .  .  .  After  having  gone  a  few  steps,  he  stopped, 
reflected,  and  returned  .  .  .  but  the  notes  were  no  longer 
there.  A  well-dressed  young  man,  observing  him,  ran 
towards  a  droshky^  jumped  in  hurriedly,  and  cried  to  the 
driver  :    "  Go  on  !  " 

The  Postmaster  did  not  pursue  him.  He  resolved  to  re- 
turn home  to  his  station,  but  before  doing  so  he  wished  to 
see  his  poor  Dounia  once  more.  For  that  purpose,  he 
returned  to  Minsky's  lodgings  a  couple  of  days  afterwards, 
but  the  military  servant  told  him  roughly  that  his  master  re- 
C^ved    nobody,    pushed    hjm   out   gf    the   Jinte-chambei 


and  slammed  the  door  in  his  face.  The  Postmaster  stood 
waiting  for  a  long  time,  then  he  walked  away. 

That  same  day,  in  the  evening,  he  was  walking  along  the 
Liteinaia,  having  been  to  a  service  at  the  Church  of  the 
Afflicted.  Suddenly  a  stylish  droshky  flew  past  him, 
and  the  Postmaster  recognized  Minsky.  The  droshky 
stopped  in  front  of  a  three-storeyed  house,  close  to  the 
entrance,  and  the  Hussar  ran  up  the  steps.  A  happy 
thought  flashed  through  the  mind  of  the  Postmaster. 
He  returned,  and,  approaching  the  coachman  : 

'*  Whose  horse  is  this,  my  friend?  "  asked  he  :  "  Doesn't 
it  belong  to  Minsky  ?  " 

"  Exactly  so,"  replied  the  coachman :  "  what  do  you 

"Well,  your  master  ordered  me  to  carry  a  letter  to 
his  Dounia,  and  I  have  forgotten  where  his  Dounia 

*'She  lives  here,  on  the  second  floor.  But  you  are 
late  with  your  letter,  my  friend;  he  is  with  her  himself 
just  now." 

^'That  doesn't  matter,"  replied  the  Postmaster,  with 
an  inexplicable  beating  of  the  heart.  "Thanks  for  your 
information,  but  I  shall  know  how  to  manage  my  business." 
And  with  these  words  he  ascended  the  staircase. 

The  door  was  locked;  he  rang.  There  was  a  painful 
delay  of  several  seconds.  The  key  rattled,  and  the  door  was 

"  Does  Avdotia  Simeonovna  live  here  ?  "  he  asked. 

"  Yes,"  replied  a  young  female  servant :  "  what  do  you 
want  with  her?" 

The  Postmaster,  without  replying,  walked  into  the 

**  You  mustn't  go  in,  you  mustn't  go  in  ! "  the  servant  cried 
put  after  him  :  "  Avdotia  Simeonovn^  h^s  visitors." 


But  the  Postmaster,  without  heeding  her,  walked  straight 
on.  The  first  two  rooms  were  dark  ;  in  the  third  there  was 
a  light.  He  approached  the  open  door  and  paused.  In 
the  room,  which  was  beautifully  furnished,  sat  Minsky 
in  deep  thought.  Dounia,  attired  in  the  most  elegant 
fashion,  was  sitting  upon  the  arm  of  his  chair,  like  a 
lady  rider  upon  her  English  saddle.  She  was  gazing 
tenderly  at  Minsky,  and  winding  his  black  curls  round 
her  sparkling  fingers.  Poor  Postmaster  !  Never  had  his 
daughter  seemed  to  him  so  beautiful ;  he  admired  her 
against  his  will. 

"  Who  is  there  ?  "  she  asked,  without  raising  her  head. 

He  remained  silent.  Receiving  no  reply,  Dounia  raised 
her  head.  .  .  .  and  with  a  cry  she  fell  upon  the  carpet. 
The  alarmed  Minsky  hastened  to  pick  her  up,  but  suddenly 
catching  sight  of  the  old  Postmaster  in  the  doorway,  he  left 
Dounia  and  approached  him,  trembling  with  rage. 

"  What  do  you  want  ?  "  he  said  to  him,  clenching  his  teeth. 
"  Why  do  you  steal  after  me  everywhere,  like  a  thief?  Or 
do  you  want  to  murder  me  ?  Be  off ! "  and  with  a  powerful 
hand  he  seized  the  old  man  by  the  collar  and  pushed  him 
down  the  stairs. 

The  old  man  returned  to  his  lodging.  His  friend  advised 
him  to  lodge  a  complaint,  but  the  Postmaster  reflected, 
waved  his  hand,  and  resolved  to  abstain  from  taking  any 
further  steps  in  the  matter.  Two  days  afterwards  he  left 
St.  Petersburg  and  returned  to  his  station  to  resume  his 

"  This  is  the  third  year,"  he  concluded,  "  that  I  have 
been  living  without  Dounia,  and  I  have  not  heard  a  word 
about  her.  Whether  she  is  alive  or  not — God  only  knows. 
So  many  things  happen.  She  is  not  the  first,  nor  yet 
the  last,  that  a  travelling  scoundrel  has  seduced,  kept 
for  a  little  while,  and  then  forsaken.     There  are  many  such 


young  fools  in  St.  Petersburg,  to-day  in  satin  and  velvet, 

and  to-morrow  sweeping  the  streets  along  with  the  wretched 

hangers-on  of  the  dram-shops.     Sometimes,  when  I  think 

that  Dounia  also  may  come  to  such  an  end,  then,  in  spite  of 

myself,  I  sin  and  wish  her  in  her  grave.  .  .  ." 

Such  was  the  story  of  my  friend,  the  old   Postmaster, 

a  story  more  than  once  interrupted   by  tears,    which   he 

picturesquely  wiped  away  with  the  skirt  of  his  coat,  like  the 

zealous  Terentitch  in  Dmitrieff's  beautiful  ballad.     These 

tears  were  partly  induced  by  the  punch,  of  which  he  had 

drunk  five  glasses  during  the  course  of  his  narrative,  but  for 

all  that,  they  produced  a  deep  impression  upon  my  heart. 

After  taking  leave  of  him,  it  was  a  long  time  before  I  could 

forget  the  old  Postmaster,  and  for  a  long  time  I  thought  of 

poor  Dounia.  .  .  . 

Passing  through  the  little  town  of a  short  time  ago, 

I  remembered  my  friend.  I  heard  that  the  station,  over 
which  he  ruled,  had  been  abolished.  To  my  question  :  "  Is 
the  old  Postmaster  still  alive  ? "  nobody  could  give  me 
a  satisfactory  reply.  I  resolved  to  pay  a  visit  to  the 
well-known  place,  and  having  hired  horses,  I  set  out  for  the 
village  of  N . 

It  was  in  the  autumn.  Grey  clouds  covered  the  sky; 
a  cold  wind  blew  across  the  reaped  fields,  carrying  along 
with  it  the  red  and  yellow  leaves  from  the  trees  that  it  en- 
countered. I  arrived  in  the  village  at  sunset,  and  stopped 
at  the  httle  post-house.  In  the  vestibule  (where  Dounia  had 
once  kissed  me)  a  stout  woman  came  out  to  meet  me,  and 
in  answer  to  my  questions  replied,  that  the  old  Postmaster 
had  been  dead  for  about  a  year,  that  his  house  was 
occupied  by  a  brewer,  and  that  she  was  the  brewer's  wife. 
I  began  to  regret  my  useless  journey,  and  the  seven  roubles 
that  I  had  spent  in  vain. 


"  Of  what  did  he  die  ?  "  I  asked  the  brewer's  wife. 

**  Of  drink,  little  father,"  replied  she. 

"And  where  is  he  buried?  " 

*'  On  the  outskirts  of  the  village,  near  his  late  wife." 

"  Could  somebody  take  me  to  his  grave?" 

**  To  be  sure  !  Hi,  Vanka,^  you  have  played  with  that  cat 
long  enough.  Take  this  gentleman  to  the  cemetery,  and 
show  him  the  Postmaster's  grave." 

At  these  words  a  ragged  lad,  with  red  hair,  and  a  cast  in 
his  eye,  ran  up  to  me  and  immediately  began  to  lead 
the  way  towards  the  burial-ground. 

"Did  you  know  the  dead  man?"  I  asked  him  on  the 

*'  Did  I  not  know  him  !  He  taught  me  how  to  cut  blow- 
pipes. When  he  came  out  of  the  dram-shop  (God  rest  his 
soul !)  we  used  to  run  after  him  and  call  out :  '  Grandfather ! 
grandfather  !  some  nuts  ! '  and  he  used  to  throw  nuts  to  us. 
He  always  used  to  play  with  us." 

"  And  do  the  travellers  remember  him  ?  " 

"  There  are  very  few  travellers  now ;  the  assessor  passes 
this  way  sometimes,  but  he  doesn't  trouble  himself  about 
dead  people.  Last  summer  a  lady  passed  through  here,  and 
she  asked  after  the  old  Postmaster,  and  went  to  his  grave." 

"  What  sort  of  a  lady  ?  "  I  asked  with  curiosity. 

"A  very  beautiful  lady,"  replied  the  lad.  "She  was  in  a 
carriage  with  six  horses,  and  had  along  with  her  three  little 
children,  a  nurse,  and  a  little  black  dog ;  and  when  they 
told  her  that  the  old  Postmaster  was  dead,  she  began  to  cry, 
and  said  to  the  children  :  *  Sit  still,  I  will  go  to  the  cemetery.' 
I  offered  to  show  her  the  way.  But  the  lady  said :  *  I  know 
the  way.'  And  she  gave  me  a  five-copeck  piece.  .  .  .  such 
a  kind  lady!" 

*  One  of  the  many  diminutives  of  Ivan. 


poushkin's  prose  tales. 

We  reached  the  cemetery,  a  dreary  place,  not  inclosed  in 
the  least ;  it  was  sown  with  wooden  crosses,  but  there  was 
not  a  single  tree  to  throw  a  shade  over  it.  Never  in  my  life 
had  I  seen  such  a  dismal  cemetery. 

"This  is  the  old  Postmaster's  grave,"  said  the  lad  to  me,^ 
leaping  upon  a  heap  of  sand,  in  which  was  planted  a  blacky 
cross  with  a  copper  image. 

**  And  did  the  lady  come  here  ?"  asked  I. 

"  Yes,"  replied  Vanka  ;  "  I  watched  her  from  a  distance 
She  lay  down  here,  and  remained  lying  down  for  a  lon( 
time.  Then  she  went  back  to  the  village,  sent  for  the  pope 
gave  him  some  money  and  drove  off,  after  giving  me  a  five 
copeck  piece.  .  .  .  such  an  excellent  lady  ! " 

And   I,   too,  gave  the  lad   a  five-copeck  piece,  and 
no  longer  regretted   the   journey  nor  the   seven   roubh 
that  I  had  spent  on  it. 




THE  last  of  the  effects  of  the  coffin-maker,  Adrian 
Prokhoroff,  were  placed  upon  the  hearse,  and  a 
couple  of  sorry-looking  jades  dragged  themselves  along  for 
the  fourth  time  from  Basmannaia  to  Nikitskaia,  whither  the 
coffin-maker  was  removing  with  all  his  household.  After 
locking  up  the  shop,  he  posted  upon  the  door  a  placard 
announcing  that  the  house  was  to  be  let  or  sold,  and  then 
made  his  way  on  foot  to  his  new  abode.  On  approaching 
the  little  yellow  house,  which  had  so  long  captivated  his 
imagination,  and  which  at  last  he  had  bought  for  a  consider- 
able sum,  the  old  coffin-maker  was  astonished  to  find  that 
his  heart  did  not  rejoice.  When  he  crossed  the  unfamiliar 
threshold  and  found  his  new  home  in  the  greatest  confusion, 
he  sighed  for  his  old  hovel,  where  for  eighteen  years  the 
strictest  order  had  prevailed.  He  began  to  scold  his  two 
daughters  and  the  servant  for  their  slowness,  and  then  set  to 
work  to  help  them  himself.  Order  was  soon  established; 
the  ark  with  the  sacred  images,  the  cupboard  with  the 
crockery,  the  table,  the  sofa,  and  the  bed  occupied  the 
corners  reserved  for  them  in  the  back  room  ;  in  the  kitchen 
and  parlour  were  placed  the  articles  comprising  the  stock- 
in-trade  of  the  master — coffins  of  all  colours  and  of  all  sizes, 
together  with  cupboards  containing  mourning  hats,  cloaks 
and  torches. 

Over  the  door  was  placed  a  sign  representing  a  fat  Cupid 
with  an  inverted  torch  in  his  hand  and  bearing  this  inscrip- 


tion:  ''Plain  and  coloured  coffins  sold  and  lined  here; 
coffins  also  let  out  on  hire,  and  old  ones  repaired." 

The  girls  retired  to  their  bedroom ;  Adrian  made  a  tour 
of  inspection  of  his  quarters,  and  then  sat  down  by  the 
window  and  ordered  the  tea-urn  to  be  prepared. 

The  enlightened  reader  knows  that  Shakespeare  and 
Walter  Scott  have  both  represented  their  grave-diggers  as 
merry  and  facetious  individuals,  in  order  that  the  contrast 
might  more  forcibly  strike  our  imagination.  Out  of  respect 
for  the  truth,  we  cannot  follow  their  example,  and  we  are 
compelled  to  confess  that  the  disposition  of  our  coffin- 
maker  was  in  perfect  harmony  with  his  gloomy  occupation. 
Adrian  Prokhoroff  was  usually  gloomy  and  thoughtful.  He 
rarely  opened  his  mouth,  except  to  scold  his  daughters 
when  he  found  them  standing  idle  and  gazing  out  of  the 
window  at  the  passers  by,  or  to  demand  for  his  wares  an  ex- 
orbitant price  from  those  who  had  the  misfortune — ^and 
sometimes  the  good  fortune — to  need  them.  Hence  it  Wc  s 
that  Adrian,  sitting  near  the  window  and  drinking  his 
seventh  cup  of  tea,  was  immersed  as  usual  in  melancholy 
reflections.  He  thought  of  the  pouring  rain  which,  just  a 
week  before,  had  commenced  to  beat  down  during  the 
funeral  of  the  retired  brigadier.  Many  of  the  cloaks  had 
shrunk  in  consequence  of  the  downpour,  and  many  of  the 
hats  had  been  put  quite  out  of  shape.  He  foresaw  unavoid- 
able expenses,  for  his  old  stock  of  funeral  dresses  was  in  a 
pitiable  condition.  He  hoped  to  compensate  himself  for 
his  losses  by  the  burial  of  old  Trukhina,  the  shopkeeper's 
wife,  who  for  more  than  a  year  had  been  upon  the  point 
of  death.  But  Trukhina  lay  dying  at  Rasgouliai,  and 
Prokhoroff  was  afraid  that  her  heirs,  in  spite  of  their 
promise,  would  not  take  the  trouble  to  send  so  far  for 
him,  but  would  make  arrangements  with  the  nearest  under- 


These  reflections  were  suddenly  interrupted  by  three 
masonic  knocks  at  the  door. 

"  Who  is  there  ?  "  asked  the  cofiin-maker. 

The  door  opened,  and  a  man,  who  at  the  first  glance 
could  be  recognized  as  a  German  artisan,  entered  the  room, 
and  with  a  jovial  air  advanced  towards  the  coffin-maker. 

"  Pardon  me,  respected  neighbour,''  said  he  in  that 
Russian  dialect  which  to  this  day  we  cannot  hear  without  a 
smile  :  **  pardon  me  for  disturbing  you.  ...  I  wished  to 
make  your  acquaintance  as  soon  as  possible.  I  am  a  shoe- 
maker, my  name  is  Gottlieb  Schultz,  and  I  live  across  the 
street,  in  that  little  house  just  facing  your  windows.  To- 
moirow  I  am  going  to  celebrate  my  silver  wedding,  and  I 
have  come  to  invite  you  and  your  daughters  to  dine  with 

The  invitation  was  cordially  accepted.  The  coffin-maker 
asked  the  shoemaker  to  seat  himself  and  take  a  cup  of  tea, 
and  thanks  to  the  open-hearted  disposition  of  Gottlieb 
Schultz,  they  were  soon  engaged  in  friendly  conversation. 

"  How  is  business  with  you  ?  "  asked  Adrian. 

"  Just  so  so,"  replied  Schultz  ;  "  I  cannot  complain.  My 
wares  are  not  like  yours :  the  living  can  do  without  shoes, 
but  the  dead  cannot  do  without  coffins." 

"  Very  true,"  observed  Adrian ;  **  but  if  a  living  person 
hasn't  anything  to  buy  shoes  with,  you  cannot  find  fault  with 
him,  he  goes  about  barefooted ;  but  a  dead  beggar  gets  his 
coffin  for  nothing." 

In  this  manner  the  conversation  was  carried  on  between 
them  for  some  time ;  at  last  the  shoemaker  rose  and  took 
leave  of  the  coffin-maker,  renewing  his  invitation. 

The  next  day,  exactly  at  twelve  o'clock,  the  coffin-maker 
and  his  daughters  issued  from  the  doorway  of  their  newly- 
purchased  residence,  and  directed  their  steps  towards  the 
abode  of  their  neighbour.     I  will  not  stop  to  describe  the 

386  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

Russian  caftan  of  Adrian  Prokhoroff,  nor  the  European 
toilettes  of  Akoulina  and  Daria,  deviating  in  this  respect 
from  the  usual  custom  of  modern  novelists.  But  I  do  not 
think  it  superfluous  to  o'bserve  that  they  both  had  on  the 
yellow  cloaks  and  red  shoes,  which  they  were  accustomed  to 
don  on  solemn  occasions  only. 

The  shoemaker's  little  dwelling  was  filled  with  guests, 
consisting  chiefly  of  German  artisans  with  their  wives  and 
foremen.  Of  the  Russian  officials  there  was  present  but 
one,  Yourko  the  Finn,  a  watchman,  who,  in  spite  of  his 
humble  calling,  was  the  special  object  of  the  host's  atten- 
tion. For  twenty-five  years  he  had  faithfully  discharged  the 
duties  of  postilion  of  Pogorelsky.  The  conflagration  of 
1812,  which  destroyed  the  ancient  capital,  destroyed  also  his 
little  yellow  watch-house.  But  immediately  after  the  expul- 
sion of  the  enemy,  a  new  one  appeared  in  its  place,  painted 
grey  and  with  white  Doric  columns,  and  Yourko  began  again 
to  pace  to  and  fro  before  it,  with  his  axe  and  grey  coat  of 
mail.  He  was  known  to  the  greater  part  of  the  Germans  who 
lived  near  the  Nikitskaia  Gate,  and  some  of  them  had  even 
spent  the  night  from  Sunday  to  Monday  beneath  his  roof. 

Adrian  immediately  made  himself  acquainted  with  him, 
as  with  a  man  whom,  sooner  or  later,  he  might  have  need 
of,  and  when  the  guests  took  their  places  at  the  table,  they 
sat  down  beside  each  other.  Herr  Schultz  and  his  wife,  and 
their  daughter  Lotchen,  a  young  girl  of  seventeen,  did  the 
honours  of  the  table  and  helped  the  cook  to  serve.  The 
beer  flowed  in  streams ;  Yourko  ate  like  four,  and  Adrian  in 
no  way  yielded  to  him ;  his  daughters,  however,  stood  upon 
their  dignity.  The  conversation,  which  was  carried  on  in 
German,  gradually  grew  more  and  more  boisterous.  Sud- 
denly the  host  requested  a  moment's  attention,  and  uncork- 
ing a  sealed  bottle,  he  said  with  a  loud  voice  in  Russian : 

**  To  the  health  of  my  good  Louise  1 '' 


The  champagne  foamed.  The  host  tenderly  kissed  the 
fresh  face  of  his  partner,  and  the  guests  drank  noisily  to  the 
health  of  the  good  Louise. 

"  To  the  health  of  my  amiable  guests ! "  exclaimed  the 
host,  uncorking  a  second  bottle;  and  the  guests  thanked 
him  by  draining  their  glasses  once  more. 

Then  followed  a  succession  of  toasts.  The  health  of  each 
individual  guest  was  dnmk;  they  drank  to  the  health  of 
Moscow  and  to  quite  a  dozen  little  German  towns;  they 
drank  to  the  health  of  all  corporations  in  general  and  of 
each  in  particular ;  th^y  drank  to  the  health  of  the  masters 
and  foremen.  Adrian  drank  with  enthusiasm  and  became 
so  merry,  that  he  proposed  a  facetious  toast  to  himself. 
Suddenly  one  of  the  guests,  a  fat  baker,  raised  his  glass  and 
exclaimed : 

"  To  the  health  of  those  for  whom  we  work,  our  cus- 
tomers ! " 

This  proposal,  like  all  the  others,  was  joyously  and  unani- 
mously received.  The  guests  began  to  salute  each  other; 
the  tailor  bowed  to  the  shoemaker,  the  shoemaker  to  the 
tailor,  the  baker  to  both,  the  whole  company  to  the  baker, 
and  so  on.  In  the  midst  of  these  mutual  congratulations, 
Yourko  exclaimed,  turning  to  his  neighbour  : 

"  Come,  little  father !  Drink  to  the  health  of  your  corpses !" 

Everybody  laughed,  but  the  coffin-maker  considered  him- 
self insulted,  and  frowned.  Nobody  noticed  it,  the  guests 
continued  to  drink,  and  the  bell  had  already  rung  for  vespers 
when  they  rose  from  the  table. 

The  guests  dispersed  at  a  late  hour,  the  greater  part  of 
them  in  a  very  merry  mood.  The  fat  baker  and  the  book- 
binder, whose  face  seemed  as  if  bound  in  red  morocco, 
linked  their  arms  in  those  of  Yourko  and  conducted  him 
back  to  his  little  watch-house,  thus  observing  the  proverb : 
"  One  good  turn  deserves  another." 

388      poushkin's  prose  tales. 

The  coffin-maker  returned  home  drunk  and  angry. 

"Why  is  it,"  he  exclaimed  aloud,  "why  is  it  that  my 
trade  is  not  as  honest  as  any  other?  Is  a  coffin-maker 
brother  to  the  hangman  ?  Why  did  those  heathens  laugh  ? 
Is  a  coffin-maker  a  buffoon?  I  wanted  to  invite  them  to 
my  new  dwelling  and  give  them  a  feast,  but  now  I'll  do 
nothing  of  the  kind.  Instead  of  inviting  them,  I  will  invite 
those  for  whom  I  work  :  the  orthodox  dead." 

"What  is  the  matter,  little  father?"  said  the  servant,  who 
was  engaged  at  that  moment  in  taking  off  his  boots  :  "  why 
do  you  talk  such  nonsense?  Make  the  sign  of  the  cross! 
Invite  the  dead  to  your  new  house  !    What  folly  ! " 

*'  Yes,  by  the  Lord  !  I  will  invite  them,"  continued  Adrian, 
"  and  that,  too,  for  to-morrow  !  ...  Do  me  the  favour,  my 
benefactors,  to  come  and  feast  with  me  to-morrow  evening ; 
I  will  regale  you  with  what  God  has  sent  me." 

With  these  words  the  coffin-maker  turned  into  bed  and 
soon  began  to  snore. 

It  was  still  dark  when  Adrian  was  awakened  out  of  his 
sleep.  Trukhina,  the  shopkeeper's  wife,  had  died  during 
the  course  of  that  very  night,  and  a  special  messenger  was 
sent  off  on  horseback  by  her  bailiff  to  carry  the  news  to 
Adrian.  The  coffin-maker  gave  him  ten  copecks  to  buy 
brandy  with,  dressed  himself  as  hastily  as  possible,  took  a 
droshky  and  set  out  for  Rasgouliai.  Before  the  door  of  the 
house  in  which  the  deceased  lay,  the  police  had  already 
taken  their  stand,  and  the  trades-people  were  passing  back- 
wards and  forwards,  like  ravens  that  smell  a  dead  body. 
The  deceased  lay  upon  a  table,  yellow  as  wax,  but  not  yet 
disfigured  by  decomposition.  Around  her  stood  her  relatives, 
neighbours  and  domestic  servants.  All  the  windows  were 
open ;  tapers  were  burning ;  and  the  priests  were  reading 
the  prayers  for  the  dead.  Adrian  went  up  to  the  nephew  of 
Trukhina,  a  young  shopman  in  a  lashionable  surtout,  and 


informed  him  that  the  coffin,  wax  candles,  pall,  and  the 
other  funeral  accessories  would  be  immediately  delivered 
with  all  possible  exactitude.  The  heir  thanked  him  in  an 
absent-minded  manner,  saying  that  he  would  not  bargain 
about  the  price,  but  would  rely  upon  him  acting  in  every- 
thing according  to  his  conscience.  The  coffin-maker,  in 
accordance  with  his  usual  custom,  vowed  that  he  would  not 
charge  him  too  much,  exchanged  significant  glances  with 
the  bailiff,  and  then  departed  to  commence  operations. 

The  whole  day  was  spent  in  passing  to  and  fro  between 
Rasgouliai  and  the  Nikitskaia  Gate.  Towards  evening  every- 
thing was  finished,  and  he  returned  home  on  foot,  after 
having  dismissed  his  driver.  It  was  a  moonlight  night. 
The  coffin-maker  reached  the  Nikitskaia  Gate  in  safety. 
Near  the  Church  of  the  Ascension  he  was  hailed  by  our 
acquaintance  Yourko,  who,  recognizing  the  coffin-maker, 
wished  him  good-night.  It  was  late.  The  coffin-maker 
was  just  approaching  his  house,  when  suddenly  he  fancied 
he  saw  some  one  approach  his  gate,  open  the  wicket,  and 
disappear  within. 

"What  does  that  mean?"  thought  Adrian.  "Who  can 
be  wanting  me  again  ?  Can  it  be  a  thief  come  to  rob  me  ? 
Or  have  my  foolish  girls  got  lovers  coming  after  them  ?  It 
means  no  good,  I  fear  ! " 

And  the  coffin-maker  thought  of  calling  his  friend  Yourko 
to  his  assistance.  But  at  that  moment,  another  person 
approached  the  wicket  and  was  about  to  enter,  but  seeing 
the  master  of  the  house  hastening  towards  him,  he  stopped 
and  took  off  his  three-cornered  hat.  His  face  seemed 
familiar  to  Adrian,  but  in  his  hurry  he  had  not  been  able  to 
examine  it  closely. 

"  You  are  favouring  me  with  a  visit,"  said  Adrian,  out  of 
breath.     "  Walk  in,  I  beg  of  you." 
;£  "Don't  stand   on   ceremony,  little   father,"  replied  the 

390      poushkin's  prose  tales. 

other,  in  a  hollow  voice ;  "  you  go  first,  and  show  your 
guests  the  way." 

Adrian  had  no  time  to  spend  upon  ceremony.  The 
wicket  was  open;  he  ascended  the  steps  followed  by  the 
other.  Adrian  thought  he  could  hear  people  walking  about 
in  his  rooms. 

"  What  the  devil  docs  all  this  mean  ! "  he  thought  to  him- 
self, and  he  hastened  to  enter.  But  the  sight  that  met  his 
eyes  caused  his  legs  to  give  way  beneath  him. 

The  room  was  full  of  corpses.  The  moon,  shining  through 
the  windows,  lit  up  their  yellow  and  blue  faces,  sunken 
mouths,  dim,  half-closed  eyes,  and  protruding  noses. 
Adrian,  with  horror,  recognized  in  them  people  that  he  him 
self  had  buried,  and  in  the  guest  who  entered  with  him,  the' 
brigadier  who  had  been  buried  during  the  pouring  rain. 
They  all,  men  and  women,  surrounded  the  coffin-maker, 
with  bowings  and  salutations,  except  one  poor  fellow  lately 
buried  gratis,  who,  conscious  and  ashamed  of  his  rags,  did 
not  venture  to  approach,  but  meekly  kept  aloof  in  a  corner. 
All  the  others  were  decently  dressed :  the  female  corpses 
in  caps  and  ribbons,  the  officials  in  uniforms,  but  with 
their  beards  unshaven,  the  tradesmen  in  their  holiday 

"  You  see,  Prokhoroff,"  said  the  brigadier  in  the  name  of 
all  the  honourable  company,  "  we  have  all  risen  in  response 
to  your  invitation.  Only  those  have  stopped  at  home  who 
were  unable  to  come,  who  have  crumbled  to  pieces  and 
have  nothing  left  but  fleshless  bones.  But  even  of  these 
there  was  one  who  hadn't  the  patience  to  remain  behind 
so  much  did  he  want  to  come  and  see  you.  ..." 

At  this  moment  a  little  skeleton  pushed  his  way  through 
the  crowd  and  approached  Adrian.  His  fleshless  face 
smiled  affably  at  the  coffin-maker.  Shreds  of  green  and  red 
cloth  and  rotten  linen  hung  on  him  here  and  there  as  on  a 



pole,  and  the  bones  of  his  feet  rattled  inside  his  big  jack- 
boots, like  pestles  in  mortars. 

"  You  do  not  recognize  me,  Prokhoroff,"  said  the  skeleton. 
"  Don't  you  remember  the  retired  sergeant  of  the  Guards, 
Peter  Petrovitch  Kourilkin,  the  same  to  whom,  in  the  year 
1799,  you  sold  your  first  coffin,  and  that,  too,  of  deal  instead 
of  oak?" 

With  these  words  the  corpse  stretched  out  his  bony  arms 
towards  him ;  but  Adrian,  collecting  all  his  strength, 
shrieked  and  pushed  him  from  him.  Peter  Petrovitch 
staggered,  fell,  and  crumbled  all  to  pieces.  Among  the 
corpses  arose  a  murmur  of  indignation ;  all  stood  up  for  the 
honour  of  their  companion,  and  they  overwhelmed  Adrian 
with  such  threats  and  imprecations,  that  the  poor  host, 
deafened  by  their  shrieks  and  almost  crushed  to  death,  lost 
his  presence  of  mind,  fell  upon  the  bones  of  the  retired 
sergeant  of  the  Guards,  and  swooned  away. 

For  some  time  the  sun  had  been  shining  upon  the  bed  on 
which  lay  the  coffin-maker.  At  last  he  opened  his  eyes  and 
saw  before  him  the  servant  attending  to  the  tea-urn.  With 
horror,  Adrian  recalled  all  the  incidents  of  the  previous 
day.  Trukhina,  the  brigadier,  and  the  sergeant,  Kourilkin, 
rose  vaguely  before  his  imagination.  He  waited  in  silence 
for  the  servant  to  open  the  conversation  and  inform  him  of 
the  events  of  the  night. 

"  How  you  have  slept,  Httle  father  Adrian  Prokhoro- 
vitch ! "  said  Aksinia,  handing  him  his  dressing-gown. 
"Your  neighbour,  the  tailor,  has  been  here,  and  the  watchman 
also  called  to  inform  you  that  to-day  is  his  name-day ;  but 
you  were  so  sound  asleep,  that  we  did  not  wish  to  wake  you." 

"  Did  anyone  come  for  me  from  the  late  Trukhina?" 

'*  The  late  ?     Is  she  dead,  then  ?  " 

"  What  a  fool  you  are !  Didn't  you  yourself  help  me 
yesterday  to  prepare  the  things  for  her  funeral  ?  " 


**  Have  you  taken  leave  of  your  senses,  little  father,  or 
have  you  not  yet  recovered  from  the  effects  of  yesterday's 
drinking-bout?  What  funeral  was  there  yesterday?  You 
spent  the  whole  day  feasting  at  the  German's,  and  then 
came  home  drunk  and  threw  yourself  upon  the  bed,  and 
have  slept  till  this  hour,  when  the  bells  have  already  rung 
for  mass." 

"  Really  ! "  said  the  coffin-maker,  greatly  relieved. 

"  Yes,  indeed,"  replied  the  servant. 

"  Well,  since  that  is  the  case,  make  the  tea  as  quickly  as 
possible  and  call  my  daughters.'* 




KIRDJALI  was  by  birth  a  Bulgarian.  Kirdjali,  in  the 
Turkish  language,  signifies  a  knight-errant,  a  bold 
fellow.     His  real  name  I  do  not  know. 

Kirdjali  with  his  acts  of  brigandage  brought  terror  upon 
the  whole  of  Moldavia.  In  order  to  give  some  idea  of  him, 
I  will  relate  one  of  his  exploits.  One  night  he  and  the 
Arnout  Mikhaelaki  fell  together  upon  a  Bulgarian  village. 
They  set  it  on  fire  at  both  ends,  and  began  to  go  from  hut 
to  hut.  Kirdjali  dispatched  the  inmates,  and  Mikhaelaki 
carried  off  the  booty.  Both  cried:  "Kirdjali!  Kirdjali!" 
The  whole  village  took  to  flight. 

When  Alejfander  Ipsilanti^  proclaimed  the  revolt  and 
began  to  collect  his  army,  Kirdjali  brought  to  him  some  of 
his  old  companions.  The  real  object  of  the  revolt  was  but 
ill  understood  by  them,  but  war  presented  an  opportunity  for 
getting  rich  at  the  expense  of  the  Turks,  and  perhaps  of  the 
Moldavians,  and  that  was  object  enough  in  their  eyes. 

Alexander  Ipsilanti  was  personally  brave,  but  he  did  not 
possess  the  qualities  necessary  for  the  role  which  he  had 
assumed  with  such  ardour  and  such  a  want  of  caution.  He 
did  not  know  how  to  manage  the  people  over  whom  he  was 
obliged  to  exercise  control.  They  had  neither  respect  for 
him  nor  confidence  in  him.  After  the  unfortunate  battle,  in 
which  perished  the  flower  of  Greek  youth,  lordaki  Olimbioti 

^  The  chief  of  the  Hetairists  (Philike  Hetairia),  whose  object  was  the 
liberation  of  Greece  from  the  Turkish  yoke. 


persuaded  him  to  retire,  and  he  himself  took  his  place. 
Ipsilanti  escaped  to  the  borders  of  Austria,  and  thence  sent 
his  curses  to  the  people  whom  he  termed  traitors,  cowards 
and  scoundrels.  These  cowards  and  scoundrels  for  the  most 
part  perished  within  the  walls  of  the  monastery  of  Seko,  or 
on  the  banks  of  the  Pnith,  desperately  defending  themselves 
against  an  enemy  ten  times  their  number. 

Kirdjali  found  himself  in  the  detachment  of  George 
Kantakuzin,  of  whom  might  be  repeated  the  same  that  has 
been  said  of  Ipsilanti.  On  the  eve  of  the  battle  near 
Skoulana,  Kantakuzin  asked  permission  of  the  Russian 
authorities  to  enter  our  lines.  The  detachment  remained 
without  a  leader,  but  Kirdjali,  Saphianos,  Kantagoni,  and 
others  stood  in  no  need  whatever  of  a  leader. 

The  battle  near  Skoulana  does  not  seem  to  have  been 
described  by  anybody  in  all  its  affecting  reality.  Imagine 
seven  hundred  men — Arnouts,  Albanians,  Greeks,  Bul- 
garians and  rabble  of  every  kind — with  no  idea  of  military 
art,  retreating  in  sight  of  fifteen  thousand  Turkish  cavalry. 
This  detachment  hugged  the  bank  of  the  Pruth,  and  placed 
in  front  of  themselves  two  small  cannons,  found  at  Jassy,  in 
the  courtyard  of  the  Governor,  and  from  which  salutes  used 
to  be  fired  on  occasions  of  rejoicing.  The  Turks  would 
have  been  glad  to  make  use  of  their  cartridges,  but  they 
dared  not  without  the  permission  of  the  Russian  authorities: 
the  shots  would  infallibly  have  flown  over  to  our  shore.  The 
commander  of  our  lines  (now  deceased),  although  he  had 
served  forty  years  in  the  army,  had  never  in  his  life  heard 
the  whistle  of  a  bullet,  but  Heaven  ordained  that  he  should 
hear  it  then.  Several  of  them  whizzed  past  his  ears.  The 
old  man  became  terribly  angry,  and  abused  the  major  of  the 
Okhotsky  infantry  regiment,  who  happened  to  be  in  advance 
of  the  lines.  The  major,  not  knowing  what  to  do,  ran 
towards  the  river,  beyond  which  some  of  the  mounted  insur- 


gents  were  caracoling  about,  and  threatened  them  with  his 
finger.  The  insurgents,  seeing  this,  turned  round  and 
galloped  off,  with  the  whole  Turkish  detachment  after  them. 
The  major,  who  had  threatened  them  with  his  finger,  was 
called  Khortcheffsky.  I  do  not  know  what  became  of 

The  next  day,  however,  the  Turks  attacked  the  Hetairists. 
Not  daring  to  use  bullets  or  cannon-balls,  they  resolved, 
contrary  to  their  usual  custom,  to  employ  cold  steel.  The 
battle  was  a  fiercely-contested  one.  Yataghans  ^  were 
freely  used.  On  the  side  of  the  Turks  were  seen  lances, 
which  had  never  been  employed  by  them  till  then ;  these 
lances  were  Russian :  Nekrassovists  fought  in  their  ranks. 
The  Hetairists,  by  permission  of  our  Emperor,  were  allowed 
to  cross  the  Pruth  and  take  refuge  within  our  lines.  They 
began  to  cross  over.  Kantagoni  and  Saphianos  remained 
last  upon  the  Turkish  bank.  Kirdjali,  wounded  the  evening 
before,  was  already  lying  within  our  lines.  Saphianos  was 
killed.  Kantagoni,  a  very  stout  man,  was  wounded  in  the 
stomach  by  a  lance.  With  one  hand  he  raised  his  sword, 
with  the  other  he  seized  the  hostile  lance,  thrust  it  further 
into  himself,  and  in  that  manner  was  able  to  reach  his 
murderer  with  his  sword,  when  both  fell  together. 

All  was  over.  The  Turks  remained  victorious.  Mol- 
davia was  swept  clear  of  insurrectionary  bands.  About  six 
hundred  Arnouts  were  dispersed  throughout  Bessarabia; 
and  though  not  knowing  how  to  support  themselves,  they 
were  yet  grateful  to  Russia  for  her  protection.  They  led  an 
idle  life,  but  not  a  licentious  one.  They  could  always  be 
seen  in  the  coffee-houses  of  half  Turkish  Bessarabia,  with 
long  pipes  in  their  mouths,  sipping  coffee  grounds  out  of 
small  cups.     Their  figured  jackets  and  red  pointed  slippers 

*  Long  Turkish  daggers. 

398  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

were  already  beginning  to  wear  out,  but  their  tufted  skull- 
caps were  still  worn  on  the  side  of  the  head,  and  yataghans 
and  pistols  still  protruded  from  under  their  broad  sashes. 
Nobody  complained  of  them.  It  was  impossible  to 
imagine  that  these  poor,  peaceably-disposed  men  were  the 
notorious  insurgents  of  Moldavia,  the  companions  of  the 
ferocious  Kirdjali,  and  that  he  himself  was  among  them. 

The  Pasha  in  command  at  Jassy  became  informed  of 
this,  and  in  virtue  of  treaty  stipulations,  requested  the 
Russian  authorities  to  deliver  up  the  brigand. 

The  police  instituted  a  search.  They  discovered  that 
Kirdjali  was  really  in  Kishineff.  They  captured  him  in  the 
house  of  a  fugitive  monk  in  the  evening,  when  he  was 
having  supper,  sitting  in  the  dark  with  seven  companions. 

Kirdjali  was  placed  under  arrest.  He  did  not  try  to 
conceal  the  truth  ;  he  acknowledged  that  he  was  Kirdjali. 

"  But,"  he  added,  "  since  I  crossed  the  Pruth,  I  have  not 
touched  a  hair  of  other  people's  property,  nor  imposed 
upon  even  a  gipsy.  To  the  Turks,  to  the  Moldavians  and 
to  the  Wallachians  I  am  undoubtedly  a  brigand,  but  to  the 
Russians  I  am  a  guest.  When  Saphianos,  having  fired  off 
all  his  cartridges,  came  over  into  these  lines,  collecting 
from  the  wounded,  for  the  last  discharge,  buttons,  nails, 
watch-chains  and  the  knobs  of  yataghans,  I  gave  him  twenty 
beshliks,  and  was  left  without  money.  God  knows  that  I, 
Kirdjali,  lived  by  alms.  Why  then  do  the  Russians  now 
deliver  me  into  the  hands  of  my  enemies  ?  " 

After  that,  Kirdjali  was  silent,  and  tranquilly  awaited  the 
decision  that  was  to  determine  his  fate.  He  did  not  wait 
long.  The  authorities,  not  being  bound  to  look  upon 
brigands  from  their  romantic  side,  and  being  convinced  of 
the  justice  of  the  demand,  ordered  Kirdjali  to  be  sent  to 

A  man  of  heart  and  intellect,  at  that  time  a  young  and 


unknown  official,  but  now  occupying  an  important  post, 
vividly  described  to  me  his  departure. 

At  the  gate  of  the  prison  stood  a  karoutsa.  .  .  .  Perhaps 
you  do  not  know  what  a  karoutsa  is.  It  is  a  low,  wicker 
vehicle,  to  which,  not  very  long  since,  used  generally  to  be 
yoked  six  or  eight  sorry  jades.  A  Moldavian,  with  a 
moustache  and  a  sheepskin  cap,  sitting  astride  one  of  them, 
incessantly  shouted  and  cracked  his  whip,  and  his  wretched 
animals  ran  on  at  a  fairly  sharp  trot.  If  one  of  them  began 
to  slacken  its  pace,  he  unharnessed  it  with  terrible  oaths 
and  left  it  upon  the  road,  little  caring  what  might  be  its  fate. 
On  the  return  journey  he  was  sure  to  find  it  in  the  same 
place,  quietly  grazing  upon  the  green  steppe.  It  not  un- 
frequently  happened  that  a  traveller,  starting  from  one 
station  with  eight  horses,  arrived  at  the  next  with  a  pair 
only.  It  used  to  be  so  about  fifteen  years  ago.  Nowadays 
in  Russianized  Bessarabia  they  have  adopted  Russian 
harness  and  Russian  telegas. 

Such  a  karoutsa  stood  at  the  gate  of  the  prison  in  the 
year  1821,  towards  the  end  of  the  month  of  September. 
Jewesses  in  loose  sleeves  and  slippers  down  at  heel,  Arnouts 
in  their  ragged  and  picturesque  attire,  well-proportioned 
Moldavian  women  with  black-eyed  children  in  their  arms, 
surrounded  the  karoutsa.  The  men  preserved  silence,  the 
women  were  eagerly  expecting  something. 

The  gate  opened,  and  several  police  officers  stepped  out 
into  the  street ;  behind  them  came  two  soldiers  leading  the 
fettered  Kirdjali. 

He  seemed  about  thirty  years  of  age.  The  features  of 
his  swarthy  face  were  regular  and  harsh.  He  was  tall, 
broad-shouldered,  and  seemed  endowed  with  unusual 
physical  strength.  A  variegated  turban  covered  the  side  of 
his  head,  and  a  broad  sash  encircled  his  slender  waist.  A 
dolman  of  thick;  darl?:-blue  cloth,  the  broad  folds  of  his 

400  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

shiit  falling  below  the  knee,  and  handsome  slippers  com- 
posed  the  remainder  of  his  costume.  His  look  was  proud 
and  calm.  .  .  . 

One  of  the  officials,  a  red-faced  old  man  in  a  threadbare 
uniform,  three  buttons  of  which  were  dangling  down,  with 
a  pair  of  pewter  spectacles  pinching  the  purple  knob  that 
served  him  for  a  nose,  unrolled  a  paper  and,  in  a  snuffling 
tone,  began  to  read  in  the  Moldavian  tongue.  From  time 
to  time  he  glanced  haughtily  at  the  fettered  Kirdjali,  to 
whom  apparently  the  paper  referred.  Kirdjali  listened  to 
him  attentively.  The  official  finished  his  reading,  folded  up 
the  paper  and  shouted  sternly  at  the  people,  ordering  them 
to  give  way  and  the  karoutsa  to  be  driven  up.  Then 
Kirdjali  turned  to  him  and  said  a  few  words  to  him  in 
Moldavian ;  his  voice  trembled,  his  countenance  changed, 
he  burst  into  tears  and  fell  at  the  feet  of  the  police  official, 
clanking  his  fetters.  The  police  official,  terrified,  started 
back ;  the  soldiers  were  about  to  raise  Kirdjali,  but  he  rose 
up  himself,  gathered  up  his  chains,  stepped  into  the  karoutsa 
and  cried  :  *'  Drive  on  !  "  A  gendarme  took  a  seat  beside 
him,  the  Moldavian  cracked  his  whip,  and  the  karoutsa 
rolled  away. 

"  What  did  Kirdjali  say  to  you  ?  "  asked  the  young  official 
of  the  police  officer. 

"  He  asked  me,"  replied  the  police  officer,  smiling,  ''  to 
look  after  his  wife  and  child,  who  lived  not  far  from  Kilia, 
in  a  Bulgarian  village :  he  is  afraid  that  they  may  suffer 
through  him.     The  mob  is  so  stupid  ! " 

The  young  official's  story  affected  me  deeply.  I  was 
sorry  for  poor  Kirdjali.  For  a  long  time  I  knew  nothing  of 
his  fate.  Some  years  later  I  met  the  young  official.  We 
began  to  talk  about  the  past. 

"  What  about  your  friend  Kirdjali  ?  "  I  asked.  "  Do  you 
know  what  became  of  him  ?  " 


**  To  be  sure  I  do,"  replied  he,  and  he  related  to  me  the 

Kirdjali,  having  been  taken  to  Jassy,  was  brought  before 
the  Pasha,  who  condemned  him  to  be  impaled.  The 
execution  was  deferred  till  some  holiday.  In  the  meantime 
he  was  confined  in  jail. 

The  prisoner  was  guarded  by  seven  Turks  (commoa 
people,  and  in  their  hearts  as  much  brigands  as  Kirdjali 
himself) ;  they  respected  him  and,  like  all  Orientals,  listened 
with  avidity  to  his  strange  stories. 

Between  the  guards  and  the  prisoner  an  intimate  ac- 
quaintance sprang  up.  One  day  Kirdjali  said  to  them  : 
"  Brothers !  my  hour  is  near.  Nobody  can  escape  his  fate. 
I  shall  soon  take  leave  of  you.  I  should  like  to  leave  you 
something  in  remembrance  of  me." 

The  Turks  pricked  up  their  ears. 

"Brothers,"  continued  Kirdjali,  '*  three  years  ago,  when  I 
was  engaged  in  plundering  along  with  the  late  Mikhaelaki, 
we  buried  on  the  steppes,  not  from  Jassy,  a  kettle  filled 
with  money,  fvidently,  neither  I  nor  he  will  make  use  of 
the  hoard.  Be  it  so ;  take  it  for  yourselves  and  divide  it  in 
a  friendly  manner." 

The  Turks  almost  took  leave  of  their  senses.  The  ques- 
tion was,  how  were  they  to  find  the  blessed  spot  ?  They 
thought  and  thought  and  finally  resolved  that  Kirdjali 
himself  should  conduct  them  to  the  place. 

Night  came  on.  The  Turks  removed  the  irons  from  the 
feet  of  the  prisoner,  tied  his  hands  with  a  rope,  and,  leaving 
the  town,  set  out  with  him  for  the  steppe. 

Kirdjali  led  them,  keeping  on  in  one  direction  from  one 
mound  to  another.  They  walked  on  for  a  long  time.  At 
last  Kirdjali  stopped  near  a  broad  stone,  measured  twelve 
paces  towards  the  south,  stamped  and  said  :  *'  Here." 

The  Turks  began  to  make  their  arrangements.     Four  of 


them  took  out  their  yataghans  and  commenced  digging  the 
earth.  Three  remained  on  guard.  Kirdjali  sat  down  upon 
the  stone  and  watched  them  at  their  work. 

'*  Well,  how  much  longer  are  you  going  to  be  ? "  he 
asked ;  ** haven't  you  come  to  it? " 

"  Not  yet,"  replied  the  Turks,  and  they  worked  away  with 
such  ardour,  that  the  perspiration  rolled  from  them  like  hail 

Kirdjali  began  to  show  signs  of  impatience. 

"  What  people  ! "  he  exclaimed  :  "  they  do  not  even  knov 
how  to  dig  decently.  I  should  have  finished  the  whole 
business  in  a  couple  of  minutes.  Children  !  untie  my  hands 
and  give  me  a  yataghan." 

The  Turks  reflected  and  began  to  take  counsel  together. 
"What  harm  would  there  be?"  reasoned  they.  *'Let  us 
untie  his  hands  and  give  him  a  yataghan.  He  is  only  one, 
we  are  seven." 

And  the  Turks  untied  his  hands  and  gave  him  a  yataghan. 

At  last  Kirdjali  was  free  and  armed.  What  must  he  have 
felt  at  that  moment !  ...  He  began  digging  quickly,  the 
guard  helping  him.  .  .  .  Suddenly  he  plunged  his  yataghan 
into  one  of  them,  and,  leaving  the  blade  in  his  breast,  he 
snatched  from  his  belt  a  couple  of  pistols. 

The  remaining  six,  seeing  Kirdjali  armed  with  two 
pistols,  ran  off. 

Kirdjali  is  now  carrying  on  the  profession  of  brigand  near 
Jassy.  Not  long  ago  he  wrote  to  the  Governor,  demanding 
from  him  five  thousand  levs^  and  threatening,  in  the  event 
of  the  money  not  being  paid,  to  set  fire  to  Jassy  and  to 
reach  the  Governor  himself.  The  five  thousand  levs  were 
handed  over  to  him  ! 

Such  is  Kirdjali ! 

^  A  Uv  is  worth  about  ten -pence, 





CHARSKY  was  one  of  the  native-born  inhabitants  of 
St.  Petersburg.  He  was  not  yet  thirty  years  of  age ; 
he  was  not  married;  the  service  did  not  oppress  him  too 
heavily.  His  late  uncle,  having  been  a  vice-governor  in  the 
good  old  times,  had  left  him  a  respectable  estate.  His  life 
was  a  very  agreeable  one,  but  he  had  the  misfortune  to 
write  and  print  verses.  In  the  journals  he  was  called 
**poet,"  and  in  the  ante-rooms  "author." 

In  spite  of  the  great  privileges  which  verse-makers  enjoy 
(we  must  confess  that,  except  the  right  of  using  the  accusa- 
tive instead  of  the  genitive,  and  other  so-called  poetical 
licenses  of  a  similar  kind,  we  fail  to  see  what  are  the  par- 
ticular privileges  of  Russian  poets),  in  spite  of  their  every 
possible  privilege,  these  persons  are  compelled  to  endure  a 
great  deal  of  unpleasantness.  The  bitterest  misfortune  of 
all,  the  most  intolerable  for  the  poet,  is  the  appellation  with 
which  he  is  branded,  and  which  will  always  cling  to  him. 
The  public  look  upon  him  as  their  own  property ;  in  their 
opinion,  he  was  created  for  their  especial  benefit  and 
pleasure.  Should  he  return  from  the  country,  the  first 
person  who  meets  him  accosts  him  with : 

"  Haven't  you  brought  anything  new  for  us  ?  " 
Should  the  derangement  of  his  affairs,  or  the  illness  of 
some  being  dear  to  him,    cause  him  to  become  lost  in 


thoughtful  reflection,  immediately  a  trite  smile  accompanies 
the  trite  exclamation : 

"  No  doubt  he  is  composing  something  ! " 

Should  he  happen  to  fall  in  love,  his  beauty  purchases  an 
album  at  the  English  warehouse,  and  expects  an  elegy. 

Should  he  call  upon  a  man  whom  he  hardly  knows,  to 
talk  about  serious  matters  of  business,  the  latter  quickly 
calls  his  son  and  compels  him  to  read  some  of  the  verses  of 
so-and-so,  and  the  lad  regales  the  poet  with  some  of  his 
lame  productions.  And  these  are  but  the  flowers  of  the 
calling ;  what  then  must  be  the  fruits !  Charsky  acknow- 
ledged that  the  compliments,  the  questions,  the  albums, 
and  the  little  boys  bored  him  to  such  an  extent,  that  he  was 
constantly  compelled  to  restrain  himself  from  committing 
some  act  of  rudeness. 

Charsky  used  every  possible  endeavour  to  rid  himself  of 
the  intolerable  appellation.  He  avoided  the  society  of 
his  literary  brethren,  and  preferred  to  them  the  men  of  the 
world,  even  the  most  shallow-minded :  but  that  did  not 
help  him.  His  conversation  was  of  the  most  commonplace 
character,  and  never  turned  upon  literature.  In  his  dress 
he  always  observed  the  very  latest  fashion,  with  the  timidity 
and  superstition  of  a  young  Moscovite  arriving  in  St.  Peters- 
burg for  the  first  time  in  his  life.  In  his  study,  furnished 
like  a  lady's  bedroom,  nothing  recalled  the  writer ;  no  books 
littered  the  table ;  the  divan  was  not  stained  with  ink ;  there 
was  none  of  that  disorder  which  denotes  the  presence  of  the 
Muse  and  the  absence  of  broom  and  brush.  Charsky  was 
in  despair  if  any  of  his  worldly  friends  found  him  with  a  pen 
in  his  hand.  It  is  difficult  to  believe  to  what  trifles  a  man, 
otherwise  endowed  with  talent  and  soul,  can  descend.  At 
one  time  he  pretended  to  be  a  passionate  lover  of  horses,  at 
another  a  desperate  gambler,  and  at  another  a  refined 
gourmet,  although  he  was  never  able  to  distinguish   the 


mountain  breed  from  the  Arab,  could  never  remember  the 
trump  cards,  and  in  secret  preferred  a  baked  potato  to  all 
the  inventions  of  the  French  cuisine.  He  led  a  life  of 
unbounded  pleasure,  was  seen  at  all  the  balls,  gormandized 
at  all  the  diplomatic  dinners,  and  appeared  at  all  the  soirees 
as  inevitably  as  the  Rezan  ices.  For  all  that,  he  was  a  poet, 
and  his  passion  was  invincible.  When  he  found  the  "  silly 
fit"  (thus  he  called  the  inspiration)  coming  upon  him, 
Charsky  would  shut  himself  up  in  his  study,  and  write  from 
morning  till  late  into  the  night.  He  confessed  to  his 
genuine  friends  that  only  then  did  he  know  what  real  happi- 
ness was.  The  rest  of  his  time  he  strolled  about,  dissembled, 
and  was  assailed  at  every  step  by  the  eternal  question : 

'*  Haven't  you  written  anything  new  ?  " 

One  morning,  Charsky  felt  that  happy  disposition  of  soul, 
when  the  illusions  are  represented  in  their  brightest  colours, 
when  vivid,  unexpected  words  present  themselves  for  the 
incarnation  of  one's  visions,  when  verses  flow  easily  from 
the  pen,  and  sonorous  rhythms  fly  to  meet  harmonious 
thoughts.  Charsky  was  mentally  plunged  into  a  sweet 
oblivion  .  .  .  and  the  world,  and  the  trifles  of  the  world, 
and  his  own  particular  whims  no  longer  existed  for  him. 
He  was  writing  verses. 

Suddenly  the  door  of  his  study  creaked,  and  the  unknown 
head  of  a  man  appeared.  Charsky  gave  a  sudden  start  and 

"Who  is  there?"  he  asked  with  vexation,  inwardly  curs- 
ing his  servants,  who  were  never  in  the  ante-room  when  they 
were  wanted. 

The  unknown  entered.  He  was  of  a  tall,  spare  figure, 
and  appeared  to  be  about  thirty  years  of  age.  The  features  of 
his  swarthy  face  were  very  expressive  :  his  pale,  lofty  fore- 
head, shaded  by  dark  locks  of  hair,  his  black,  sparkling  eyes, 
aquiline   nose,   and  thick  beard  surrounding  his  sunken, 


tawny  cheeks,  indicated  him  to  be  a  foreigner.  He  was  at- 
tired in  a  black  dress-coat,  already  whitened  at  the  seams, 
and  summer  trousers  (although  the  season  was  well  into  the 
autumn) ;  under  his  tattered  black  cravat,  upon  a  yellowish 
shirt-front,  glittered  a  false  diamond  ;  his  shaggy  hat  seemed 
to  have  seen  rain  and  bad  weather.  Meeting  such  a  man  in 
a  wood,  you  would  have  taken  him  for  a  robber ;  in  society 
— for  a  political  conspirator ;  in  an  ante-room — for  a  charla- 
tan, a  seller  of  elixirs  and  arsenic. 

"  What  do  you  want  ?  "  Charsky  asked  him  in  French. 

"Signor,"  replied  the  foreigner  in  Italian,  with  several 
profound  bows  :  ^^  Lei  vogiia  perdonar  mi,  si  .  .  ."  (PWse 
pardon  me,  if  .      .) 

Charsky  did  not  offer  him  a  chair,  and  he  rose  himself: 
the  conversation  was  continued  in  Italian. 

"  I  am  a  Neapolitan  artist,"  said  the  unknown  :  "  circum- 
stances compelled  me  to  leave  my  native  land  ;  I  have  come 
to  Russia,  trusting  to  my  talent." 

Charsky  thought  that  the  Italian  was  preparing  t«  give  some 
violoncello  concerts  and  was  disposing  of  his  tickets  from  house 
to  house.  He  was  just  about  to  give  him  twenty-five  roubles 
in  order  to  get  rid  of  him  as  quickly  as  possible,  but  the  un- 
known added  : 

"  I  hope,  signor,  that  you  will  give  a  friendly  support 
to  your  confrere,  and  introduce  me  into  the  houses  to  which 
you  have  access." 

It  was  impossible  to  offer  a  greater  affront  to  Charsky's 
vanity.  He  glanced  haughtily  at  the  individual  who  called 
himself  his  confrere- 

**  Allow  me  to  ask,  what  are  you,  and  for  whom  do  you  take 
me  ?  "  he  said,  with  difficulty  restraining  his  indignation. 

The  Neapolitan  observed  his  vexation. 

**  Signor,"  he  repUed,  stammering  :  "  Ho  creduto  .  .  .  ho 
seniito  .  ^  .  la  vostra  Eccelenza  .   ,  ,  mi  ferdonera  .  .  ."  (I 


believed  ...  I  felt  .  .  .  Your  Excellency  .  .  .  will  par- 
don me.  .  .  .) 

"  What  do  you  want  ?  "  repeated  Charsky  drily. 

"  I  have  heard  a  great  deal  of  your  wonderful  talent ; 
I  am  sure  that  the  gentlemen  of  this  place  esteem  it  an 
honour  to  extend  every  possible  protection  to  such  an 
excellent  poet,"  replied  the  Italian  :  "  and  that  is  why 
I  have  ventured  to  present  myself  to  you.  .  .  ." 

"  You  are  mistaken,  signor,"  interrupted  Charsky.  "  The 
caUing  of  poet  does  not  exist  among  us.  Our  poets  do  not 
solicit  the  protection  of  gentlemen ;  our  poets  are  gentle- 
men themselves,  and  if  our  Maecenases  (devil  take  them  !) 
do  not  know  that,  so  much  the  worse  for  them.  Among  us 
there  are  no  ragged  abb^s,  whom  a  musician  would  take  out 
of  the  streets  to  compose  a  libretto.  Among  us,  poets 
do  not  go  on  foot  from  house  to  house,  begging  for  help. 
Moreover,  they  must  have  been  joking,  when  they  told  you 
that  I  was  a  great  poet.  It  is  true  that  I  once  wrote  some 
wretched  epigrams,  but  thank  God,  I  haven't  anything 
in  common  with  7iiessieurs  les  poetes,  and  do  not  wish  to 

The  poor  Italian  became  confused.  He  looked  around 
him.  The  pictures,  marble  statues,  bronzes,  and  the  costly 
baubles  on  Gothic  what-nots,  struck  him.  He  understood 
that  between  the  haughty  dandy,  standing  before  him  in  a 
tufted  brocaded  cap,  gold-embroidered  nankeen  dressing- 
gown  and  Turkish  sash, — and  himself,  a  poor  wandering 
artist,  in  tattered  cravat  and  shabby  dress-coat — there  was 
nothing  in  common.  He  stammered  out  some  unintelligible 
excuses,  bowed,  and  wished  to  retire.  His  pitiable  appear- 
ance touched  Charsky,  who,  in  spite  of  the  defects  in 
his  character,  had  a  good  and  noble  heart.  He  felt 
ashamed  of  his  irritated  vanity. 

**  Where  are  you  going  ?  "  he  said  to  the  Italian.     "  Wait 

410  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

...  I  was  compelled  to  decline  an  unmerited  title  and  con- 
fess to  you  that  I  was  not  a  poet.  Now  let  us  speak  about 
your  business.  I  am  ready  to  serve  you,  if  it  be  in  my 
power  to  do  so.     Are  you  a  musician  ?  " 

"  No,  Eccelenza,"  replied  the  Italian ;  "  I  am  a  poor 
improvisators  " 

*'An  improvisatore ! "  cried  Charsky,  feeling  all  the 
cruelty  of  his  reception.  "Why  didn't  you  say  sooner 
that  you  were  an  improvisatore  ?  " 

And  Charsky  grasped  his  hand  with  a  feeling  of  sincere  ' 

His  friendly  manner  encouraged  the  ItaHan.  He  spoke 
haively  of  his  plans.  His  exterior  was  not  deceptive.  He 
was  in  need  of  money,  and  he  hoped  somehow  in  Russia  to 
improve  his  domestic  circumstances.  Charsky  listened 
to  him  with  attention. 

"  I  hope,"  said  he  to  the  poor  artist,  "  that  you  will  have 
success;  society  here  has  never  heard  an  improvisatore. 
Curiosity  will  be  awakened.  It  is  true  that  the  Italian  lan- 
guage is  not  in  use  among  us  ;  you  will  not  be  understood, 
but  that  will  be  no  great  misfortune  ;  the  chief  thing  is  that 
you  should  be  in  the  fashion." 

"  But  if  nobody  among  you  understands  Italian,"  said 
the  improvisatore,  becoming  thoughtful,  "  who  will  come  to 
hear  me  ?  " 

"  Have  no  fear  about  that — they  will  come  :  some  out  of 
curiosity,  others  to  pass  away  the  evening  somehow  or 
other,  others  to  show  that  they  understand  Italian.  I  repeat, 
it  is  only  necessary  that  you  should  be  in  the  fashion,  and 
you  will  be  in  the  fashion — I  give  you  my  hand  upon  it." 

Charsky  dismissed  the  improvisatore  very  cordially,  after 
having  taken  his  address,  and  the  same  evening  he  set 
to  work  to  do  what  he  could  for  him, 



THE  next  day,  in  the  dark  and  dirty  corridor  of  a 
tavern,  Charsky  discovered  the  number  35.  He 
stopped  at  the  door  and  knocked.  It  was  opened  by  the 
Italian  of  the  day  before. 

"  Victory  ! "  said  Charsky  to  him :   **  your  affairs  are  in  a 

good  way.     The  Princess   N ,   offers   you   her  salon ; 

yesterday,  at  the  rout,  I  succeeded  in  enlisting  the  half 
of  St.  Petersburg ;  get  your  tickets  and  announcements 
printed.  If  I  cannot  guarantee  a  triumph  for  you,  I'll 
answer  for  it  that  you  will  at  least  be  a  gainer  in 
pocket.  .  .  ." 

*'  And  that  is  the  chief  thing,"  cried  the  Italian,  manifest- 
ing his  delight  in  a  series  of  gestures  that  were  characteris- 
tic of  his  southern  origin.  "  I  knew  that  you  would  help 
me.  Corpo  di  Baccol  You  are  a  poet  like  myself,  and 
there  is  no  denying  that  poets  are  excellent  fellows  !  How 
can  I  show  my  gratitude  to  you  ?  Stop.  .  .  .  Would  you 
like  to  hear  an  improvisation  ?  " 

**  An  improvisation !  .  .  .  Can  you  then  do  without 
public,  without  music,  and  without  sounds  of  applause  ?  " 

"  And  where  could  I  find  a  better  public  ?  You  are 
a  poet :  you  understand  me  better  than  they,  and  your 
quiet  approbation  will  be  dearer  to  me  than  whole  storms  of 
applause.  ...  Sit  down  somewhere  and  give  me  a  theme." 

"Here  is  your  theme,  then,"  said  Charsky  to  him:  ''the 
poet  himself  should  choose  the  subject  of  his  songs ;  the  crowd 
has  not  the  right  to  direct  his  inspirations,^^ 


The  eyes  of  the  Italian  sparkled  :  he  tried  a  few  chords, 
raised  his  head  proudly,  and  passionate  verses — the  expres- 
sion of  instantaneous  sentiment — fell  in  cadence  from  his 
lips.  .  .  . 

The  Italian  ceased.  .  .  .  Charsky  remained  silent,  filled 
with  delight  and  astonishment. 

"  Well  ?  "  asked  the  improvisatore. 

Charsky  seized  his  hand  and  pressed  it  firmly. 

"  Well  ?  "  asked  the  improvisatore. 

"  Wonderful ! "  replied  the  poet.  "  The  idea  of  another' 
has  scarcely  reached  your  ears,  and  already  it  has  become 
your  own,  as  if  you  had  nursed,  fondled  and  developed  it 
for  a  long  time.  And  so  for  you  there  exists  neither  difficulty 
nor  discouragement,  nor  that  uneasiness  which  precedes  in- 
spiration ?    Wonderful,  wonderful ! " 

The  improvisatore  replied  :  **  Each  talent  is  inexplicable. 
How  does  the  sculptor  see,  in  a  block  of  Carrara  marble, 
the  hidden  Jupiter,  and  how  does  he  bring  it  to  light  with 
hammer  and  chisel  by  chipping  off  its  envelope  ?  Why  does 
the  idea  issue  from  the  poet's  head  already  equipped  with 
four  rhymes,  and  arranged  in  measured  and  harmonious 
feet?  Nobody,  except  the  improvisatore  himself,  can  under- 
stand that  rapid  impression,  that  narrow  link  between  in- 
spiration proper  and  a  strange  exterior  will ;  I  myself  would 
try  in  vain  to  explain  it.  But  ...  I  must  think  of  my  first 
evening.  What  do  you  think  ?  What  price  could  I  charge 
for  the  tickets,  so  that  the  public  may  not  be  too  exacting, 
and  so  that,  at  the  same  time,  I  may  not  be  out  of  pocket 
myself?  They  say  that  La  Signora  Catalani  ^  took  twenty- 
five  roubles.     That  is  a  good  price.  ..." 

It  was  very  disagreeable  to  Charsky  to  fall  suddenly  from 

^  A  celebrated  Italian  vocalist,  whose  singing  created  an  unprecedented 
sensation  in  the  principal  European  capitals  during  the  first  quarter  of 
the  present  century. 


the  heights  of  poesy  down  to  the  bookkeeper's  desk,  but  he 
understood  very  well  the  necessities  of  this  world,  and  he 
assisted  the  Italian  in  his  mercantile  calculations.  The  im- 
provisatore,  during  this  part  of  the  business,  exhibited  such 
savage  greed,  such  an  artless  love  of  gain,  that  he  disgusted 
Charsky,  who  hastened  to  take  leave  of  him,  so  that  he 
might  not  lose  altogether  the  feeling  of  ecstasy  awakened 
within  him  by  the  brilliant  improvisation.  The  Italian, 
absorbed  in  his  calculations,  did  not  observe  this  change, 
and  he  conducted  Charsky  into  the  corridor  and  out  to  the 
steps,  with  profound  bows  and  assurances  of  eternal  gratitude. 




THE  salon  of  Princess  N had  been  placed  at  the 
disposal  of  the  improvisatore ;  a  platform  had  been 
erected,  and  the  chairs  were  arranged  in  twelve  rows.  On 
the  appointed  day,  at  seven  o'clock  in  the  evening,  the  room 
was  illuminated ;  at  the  door,  before  a  small  table,  to  sell 
and  receive  tickets,  sat  a  long-nosed  old  woman,  in  a 
grey  cap  with  broken  feathers,  and  with  rings  on  all  her 
fingers.     Near  the  steps  stood  gendarmes. 

The  public  began  to  assemble.  Charsky  wa3  one  of  the 
first  to  airive.  He  had  contributed  greatly  to  the  success 
of  the  representation,  and  wished  to  see  the  improvisatore, 
in  order  to  know  if  he  was  satisfied  with  everything.  He 
found  the  Italian  in  a  side  room,  observing  his  watch  with 
impatience.  The  improvisatore  was  attired  in  a  theatrical 
costume.  He  was  dressed  in  black  from  head  to  foot.  The 
lace  collar  of  his  shirt  was  thrown  back ;  his  naked  neck,  by 
its  strange  whiteness,  offered  a  striking  contrast  to  his  thick 
black  beard ;  his  hair  was  brought  forward,  and  over- 
shadowed his  forehead  and  eyebrows. 

All  this  was  not  very  gratifying  to  Charsky,  who  did  not 
care  to  see  a  poet  in  the  dress  of  a  wandering  juggler.  After 
a  short  conversation,  he  returned  to  the  salon,  which  was 
becoming  more  and  more  crowded.  Soon  all  the  rows  of 
seats  were  occupied  by  brilliantly-dressed  ladies  :  the  gentle- 
men stood  crowded  round  the  sides  of  the  platform,  along 
the  walls,  and  behind  the  chairs  at  the  back  ;  the  musicians, 
with  their  music-stands,  occupied  two  sides   of  the  plat- 


form.  In  the  middle,  upon  a  table,  stood  a  porcelain 

The  audience  was  a  large  one.  Everybody  awaited  the 
commencement  with  impatience.  At  last,  at  half-past  seven 
o'clock,  the  musicians  made  a  stir,  prepared  their  bows,  and 
played  the  overture  from  "  Tancredi."  All  took  their  places 
and  became  silent.  The  last  sounds  of  the  overture  ceased. 
.  .  .  The  improvisatore,  welcomed  by  the  deafening  applause 
which  rose  from  every  side,  advanced  with  profound  bows 
to  the  very  edge  of  the  platform. 

Charsky  waited  with  uneasiness  to  see  what  would  be  the 
first  impression  produced,  but  he  perceived  that  the  costume, 
which  had  seemed  to  him  so  unbecoming,  did  not  produce  the 
same  effect  upon  the  audience ;  even  Charsky  himself  found 
nothing  ridiculous  in  the  Italian,  when  he  saw  him  upon  the 
platform,  with  his  pale  face  brightly  illuminated  by  a  multi- 
tude of  lamps  and  candles.  The  applause  subsided ;  the 
sound  of  voices  ceased  .  .  . 

The  Italian,  expressing  himself  in  bad  French,  requested 
the  gentlemen  present  to  indicate  some  themes,  by  writing 
them  upon  separate  pieces  of  paper.  At  this  unexpected 
invitation,  all  looked  at  one  another  in  silence,  and  nobody 
made  reply.  The  Italian,  after  waiting  a  little  while,  repeated 
his  request  in  a  timid  and  humble  voice.  Charsky  was 
standing  right  under  the  platform ;  a  feeling  of  uneasiness 
took  possession  of  him;  he  had  a  presentiment  that  the 
business  would  not  be  able  to  go  on  without  him,  and  that 
he  would  be  compelled  to  write  his  theme.  Indeed,  several 
ladies  turned  their  faces  towards  him  and  began  to  pronounce 
his  name,  at  first  in  a  low  tone,  then  louder  and  louder. 
Hearing  his  name,  the  improvisatore  sought  him  with  his 
eyes,  and  perceiving  him  at  his  feet,  he  handed  him  a  pencil 
and  a  piece  of  paper  with  a  friendly  smile.  To  play  a  role 
in  this  comedy  seemed  very  disagreeable  to  Charsky,  but 


there  was  no  help  for  it :  he  took  the  pencil  and  paper  from 
the  hands  of  the  Italian  and  wrote  some  words.  The  Italian, 
taking  the  vase  from  the  table,  descended  from  the  platform 
and  presented  it  to  Charsky,  who  deposited  within  it  his 
theme.  His  example  produced  an  effect :  two  journalists, 
in  their  quality  as  literary  men,  considered  it  incumbent 
upon  them  to  write  each  his  theme;  the  secretary  of  the 
Neapolitan  embassy,  and  a  young  man  recently  returned 
from  a  journey  to  Florence,  placed  in  the  urn  their  folded 
papers.  At  last,  a  very  plain-looking  girl,  at  the  command 
of  her  mother,  with  tears  in  her  eyes,  wrote  a  few  lines  in 
Italian  and,  blushing  to  the  ears,  gave  them  to  the  improvi- 
satore,  the  ladies  in  the  meantime  regarding  her  in  silence, 
with  a  scarcely  perceptible  smile.  Returning  to  the  platform, 
the  improvisatore  placed  the  urn  upon  the  table,  and  began 
to  take  out  the  papers  one  after  the  other,  reading  each 
aloud : 

*''' La  famiglia  del  Cenci.  .  .  .  L ultimo  giorno  di  Pompeia 
,  .  .  Cleopatra  eisuoi  amanti.  .  .  .  La  primavera  veduta  da 
una  prigione.  .  .  ,  LI  trionfo  di  Tasso^ 

*'What  does  the  honourable  company  command?"  asked 
the  Italian  humbly.  "  Will  it  indicate  itself  one  of  the 
subjects  proposed,  or  let  the  matter  be  decided  by  lot  ?  " 

"  By  lot ! "  said  a  voice  in  the  crowd.  ..."  By  lot,  by 
lot ! "  repeated  the  audience. 

The  improvisatore  again  descended  from  the  platform, 
holding  the  urn  in  his  hands,  and  casting  an  imploring 
glance  along  the  first  row  of  chairs,  asked : 

"  Who  will  be  kind  enough  to  draw  out  the  theme  ?  " 

Not  one  of  the  brilliant  ladies,  who  were  sitting  there, 
stirred.  The  improvisatore,  not  accustomed  to  Northern  in- 
difference, seemed  greatly  disconcerted.  ,  .  .  Suddenly  he 
perceived  on  one  side  of  the  room  a  small  white-gloved 
hand  held  up  :  he  turned  quickly  and  advanced  towards  a 


tall  young  beauty,  seated  at  the  end  of  the  second  row. 
^e  rose  without  the  slightest  confusion,  and,  with  the 
greatest  simplicity  in  the  world,  plunged  her  aristocratic 
hand  into  the  urn  and  drew  out  a  roll  of  paper. 

"  Will  you  please  unfold  it  and  read,"  said  the  improvisa- 
tore  to  her. 

The  young  lady  unrolled  the  paper  and  read  aloud : 

"  Cleopatra  e  i  suoi  amantt." 

These  words  were  uttered  in  a  gentle  voice,  but  such 
a  deep  silence  reigned  in  the  room,  that  everybody  heard 
them.  The  improvisatore  bowed  profoundly  to  the  young 
lady,  with  an  air  of  the  deepest  gratitude,  and  returned 
to  his  platform. 

"  Gentlemen,"  said  he,  turning  to  the  audience:  "  the  lot 
has  indicated  as  the  subject  of  improvisation  :  *  Cleopatra 
and  her  lovers.'  I  humbly  request  the  person  who  has 
chosen  this  theme,  to  explain  to  me  his  idea :  what  lovers  is 
it  here  a  question  of,  perchh  la  grande  regina  haveva 

At  these  words,  several  gentlemen  burst  out  laughing. 
The  improvisatore  became  somewhat  confused. 

"  I  should  Hke  to  know,"  he  continued,  "  to  what  histori- 
cal feature  does  the  person,  who  has  chosen  this  theme, 
allude  ?  .  .  .  I  should  feel  very  grateful  if  he  would  kindly 

Nobody  hastened  to  reply.  Several  ladies  directed  their 
glances  towards  the  plain-looking  girl  who  had  written 
a  theme  at  the  command  of  her  mother.  The  poor  girl  ob- 
served this  hostile  attention,  and  became  so  confused,  that 
the  tears  came  into  her  eyes.  .  .  .  Charsky  could  not 
endure  this,  and  turning  to  the  improvisatore,  he  said  to  him 
in  Italian : 

"It  was  I  who  proposed  the  theme.  I  had  in  view  a  pas- 
sage in  Aurelius  Victor,  who  speaks  as  if  Cleopatra  used  to 

41 8      poushkin's  prose  tales. 

name  death  as  the  price  of  her  love,  and  yet  there 
were  found  adorers  whom  such  a  condition  neither 
frightened  nor  repelled.  It  seems  to  me,  however,  that 
the  subject  is  somewhat  difficult.  .  .  .  Could  you  not 
choose  another  ?  " 

But  the  improvisatore  already  felt  the  approach  of 
the  god.  ...  He  gave  a  sign  to  the  musicians  to  play. 
His  face  became  terribly  pale;  he  trembled  as  if  in  a 
fever ;  his  eyes  sparkled  with  a  strange  fire ;  he  raised  with 
his  hand  his  dark  hair,  wiped  with  his  handkerchief  his 
lofty  forehead,  covered  with  beads  of  perspiration.  .  .  . 
then  suddenly  stepped  forward  and  folded  his  arms  across 
his  breast.  .  .  .  the  musicians  ceased.  ...  the  improvi- 
sation  began : 

'*  The  palace  glitters  ;  the  songs  of  the  choir 
Echo  the  sounds  of  the  flute  and  lyre ; 
With  voice  and  glance  the  stately  Queen 
Gives  animation  to  the  festive  scene, 
And  eyes  are  turned  to  her  throne  above. 
And  hearts  beat  wildly  with  ardent  love. 
But  suddenly  that  brow  so  proud 
Is  shadowed  with  a  gloomy  cloud, 
And  slowly  on  her  heaving  breast, 
Her  pensive  head  sinks  down  to  rest. 
The  music  ceases,  hushed  is  each  breath, 
Upon  the  feast  falls  the  lull  of  death  ;  "  ^ 

The  story  is  incomplete  in  the  originaL — Translator, 






AMONG  the  number  of  young  men  sent  abroad  by 
Peter  the  Great  for  the  acquisition  of  knowledge  in- 
dispensable to  a  country  in  a  state  of  transition,  was  his 
godson,  the  negro,  Ibrahim.  After  being  educated  in  the 
Military  School  at  Paris,  which  he  left  with  the  rank 
of  Captain  of  Artillery,  he  distinguished  himself  in  the 
Spanish  War  of  Succession,  but  having  been  severely 
wounded,  he  returned  to  Paris.  The  Emperor,  in  the 
midst  of  his  extensive  labours,  never  ceased  to  inquire  after 
his  favourite,  and  he  always  received  flattering  accounts  of 
his  progress  and  conduct.  Peter  was  exceedingly  pleased 
with  him,  and  more  than  once  requested  him  to  return 
to  Russia,  but  Ibrahim  was  in  no  hurry.  He  excused  him- 
self under  various  pretexts  :  now  it  was  his  wound,  now  it 
was  a  wish  to  complete  his  education,  now  a  want  of  money ; 
and  Peter  indulgently  complied  with  his  wishes,  begged 
him  to  take  care  of  his  health,  thanked  him  for  his  zeal  in 
the  pursuit  of  knowledge,  and  although  extremely  parsimo- 
nious in  his  own  expenses,  he  did  not  spare  his  exchequer 
when  his  favourite  was  concerned,   and   the  ducats  were 

'■  Although  this  story  was  unfortunately  left  unfinished,  it  has  been 
included  in  this  collection,  as,  apart  from  its  intrinsic  merit,  it  throws 
an  interesting  light  upon  the  history  of  Poushkin's  African  ancestor.— 
The  real  name  of  the  hero  was  Hannibal.— Translator. 


generally  accompanied  by  fatherly  advice  and  words  of 

According  to  the  testimony  of  all  historical  accounts, 
nothing  could  be  compared  with  the  frivolity,  folly  and 
luxury  of  the  French  of  that  period.  The  last  years  of  the 
reign  of  Louis  the  Fourteenth,  remarkable  for  the  strict 
piety,  gravity,  and  decorum  of  the  court,  had  left  no  traces 
behind.  The  Duke  of  Orleans,  uniting  many  brilliant 
qualities  with  vices  of  every  kind,  unfortunately  did  not 
possess  the  slightest  shadow  of  hypocrisy.  The  orgies 
of  the  Palais  Royal  were  no  secret  in  Paris ;  the  example 
was  infectious.  At  that  time  Law^  appeared  upon  the 
scene;  greed  for  money  was  united  to  the  thirst  for 
pleasure  and  dissipation  ;  estates  were  squandered,  morals 
perished.  Frenchmen  laughed  and  calculated,  and  the 
kingdom  fell  to  pieces  to  the  music  of  satirical  vaudevilles. 

In  the  meantime  society  presented  a  most  remarkable 
picture.  Culture  and  the  desire  for  amusement  brought  all 
ranks  together.  Wealth,  amiability,  renown,  talent,  even 
eccentricity — everything  that  satisfied  curiosity  or  promised 
amusement,  was  received  with  the  same  indulgence. 
Literature,  learning  and  philosophy  forsook  their  quiet 
studies  and  appeared  in  the  circles  of  the  great  world 
to  render  homage  to  fashion  and  to  obey  its  decrees. 
Women  reigned,  but  no  longer  demanded  adoration. 
Superficial  politeness  was  substituted  for  the  profound 
respect  formerly  shown  to  them.  The  pranks  of  the  Duke 
de  Richelieu,  the  Alcibiades  of  modern  Athens,  belong  to 
history,  and  give  an  idea  of  the  morals  of  that  period. 

'*  Temps  fortune,  marqu^  par  la  licence, 
Oil  la  folic,  agitant  son  grelot, 
D'un  pied  leger  parcourt  toute  la  France, 

*  John  Law,  the  famous  projector  of  financial  schemes, 


Ou  nul  mortel  ne  daigne  etre  devot, 
Ou  Ton  fait  tout  excepte  penitence. " 

The  appearance  of  Ibrahim,  his  bearing,  culture  and 
natural  intelligence  excited  general  attention  in  Paris.  All 
the  ladies  were  anxious  to  see  "  le  nbgre  du  Czar  "  at  their 
houses,  and  vied  with  each  other  in  their  attentions  towards 
him.  The  Regent  invited  him  more  than  once  to  his  merry 
evening  parties ;  he  assisted  at  the  suppers  animated  by  the 
youth  of  Arouet,^  the  old  age  of  Chaulieu,  and  the  conver- 
sations of  Montesquieu  and  Fontenelle.  He  did  not  miss  a 
single  ball,  fete  or  first  representation,  and  he  gave  himself 
up  to  the  general  whirl  with  all  the  ardour  of  his  years  and 
nature.  But  the  thought  of  exchanging  these  delights, 
these  brilliant  amusements  for  the  simpHcity  of  the  Peters- 
burg Court  was  not  the  only  thing  that  dismayed  Ibrahim ; 
other  and  stronger  ties  bound  him  to  Paris.  The  young 
African  was  in  love. 

The   Countess  L ,  although  no  longer  in  the  first 

bloom  of  youth,  was  still  renowned  for  her  beauty.  On 
leaving  the  convent  at  the  age  of  seventeen,  she  was  married 
to  a  man  whom  she  had  not  succeeded  in  loving,  and  who 
later  on  did  not  take  the  trouble  to  gain  her  love.  Report 
assigned  several  lovers  to  her,  but  thanks  to  the  indulgent 
views  entertained  by  the  world,  she  enjoyed  a  good  reputa- 
tion, for  nobody  was  able  to  reproach  her  with  any  ridiculous 
or  scandalous  adventure.  Her  house  was  one  of  the  most 
fashionable,  and  the  best  Parisian  society  made  it  their 
rendezvous.  Ibrahim  was  introduced  to  her  by  young 
Merville,  who  was  generally  looked  upon  as  her  latest  lover, — 
and  who  did  all  in  his  power  to  obtain  credit  for  the  report. 

The  Countess  received  Ibrahim  politely,  but  without  any 
particular  attention  :  this  made  him  feel  flattered.  Generally 

1  Voltaire. 

424  poushkin's  prose  tales. 

the  young  negro  was  regarded  in  the  light  of  a  curiosity ; 
people  used  to  surround  him  and  overwhelm  him  with  com- 
pliments and  questions — and  this  curiosity,  although  con- 
cealed by  a  show  of  graciousness,  offended  his  vanity.  The 
delightful  attention  of  women,  almost  the  sole  aim  of  our 
exertions,  not  only  afforded  him  no  pleasure,  but  even  filled 
him  with  bitterness  and  indignation.  He  felt  that  he  was 
for  them  a  kind  of  rare  beast,  a  peculiar  creature,  acci- 
dentally brought  into  the  world,  but  having  with  it  nothing 
in  common.  He  even  envied  people  who  remained 
unnoticed,  and  considered  them  fortunate  in  their  insigni- 

The  thought,  that  nature  had  not  created  him  for  the 
inspiring  of  a  passion,  emancipated  him  from  self-assertion 
and  vain  pretensions,  and  added  a  rare  charm  to  his 
behaviour  towards  women.  His  conversation  was  simple 
and  dignified ;  he  found  great  favour  in  the  eyes  of  the 

Countess  L ,  who  had  grown  tired  of  the  pronounced 

jests  and  pointed  insinuations  of  French  wit.  Ibrahim 
frequently  visited  her.  Little  by  little  she  became  accus- 
tomed to  the  young  negro's  appearance,  and  even  began  to 
find  something  agreeable  in  that  curly  head,  that  stood  out 
so  black  in  the  midst  of  the  powdered  perukes  in  her  recep- 
tion-room (Ibrahim  had  been  wounded  in  the  head,  and 
wore  a  bandage  instead  of  a  peruke).  He  was  twenty-seven 
years  of  age,  and  was  tall  and  slender,  and  more  than 
one  beauty  glanced  at  him  with  a  feeling  more  flattering 
than  simple  curiosity.  But  the  prejudiced  Ibrahim  either 
did  not  observe  anything  of  this  or  merely  looked  upon  it  as 
coquetry.  But  when  his  glances  met  those  of  the  Countess, 
his  distrust  vanished.  Her  eyes  expressed  such  winning 
kindness,  her  manner  towards  him  was  so  simple,  so  uncon- 
strained, that  it  was  impossible  to  suspect  her  of  the  least 
shadow  of  coquetry  or  raillery. 


The  thought  of  love  had  not  entered  his  head,  but  to  see 
the  Countess  each  day  had  become  a  necessity  to  him.  He 
tried  to  meet  her  everywhere,  and  every  meeting  with  her 
seemed  an  unexpected  favour  from  heaven.  The  Countess 
guessed  his  feelings  before  he  himself  did.  There  is  no 
denying  that  a  love,  which  is  without  hope  and  which 
demands  nothing,  touches  the  female  heart  more  surely  than 
all  the  devices  of  the  libertine.  In  the  presence  of  Ibrahim, 
the  Countess  followed  all  his  movements,  listened  to  every 
word  that  he  said ;  without  him  she  became  thoughtful,  and 
fell  into  her  usual  absence  of  mind.  Merville  was  the  first 
to  observe  this  mutual  inclination,  and  he  congratulated 
Ibrahim.  Nothing  inflames  love  so  much  as  the  approving 
observations  of  a  bystander :  love  is  blind,  and,  having  no 
trust  in  itself,  readily  grasps  hold  of  every  support. 

Merville's  words  roused  Ibrahim.  The  possibility  of 
possessing  the  woman  that  he  loved  had  never  till  then 
occurred  to  his  mind;  hope  suddenly  dawned  upon  his 
soul;  he  fell  madly  in  love.  In  vain  did  the  Countess, 
alarmed  by  the  ardour  of  his  passion,  wish  to  combat  his 
vehemence  with  friendly  warnings  and  wise  counsels,  she 
herself  was  beginning  to  waver.  .  .  . 

Nothing  is  hidden  from  the  eyes  of  the  observing  world. 
The  Countess's  new  inclination  was  soon  known  by  every- 
body. Some  ladies  were  amazed  at  her  choice ;  to  many  it 
seemed  quite  natural.  Some  laughed ;  others  regarded  her 
conduct  as  unpardonably  indiscreet.  In  the  first  intoxica- 
tion of  passion,  Ibrahim  and  the  Countess  observed  nothing, 
but  soon  the  equivocal  jokes  of  the  men  and  the  sarcastic 
observations  of  the  women  began  to  reach  their  ears. 
Ibrahim's  cold  and  serious  manner  had  hitherto  protected 
him  from  such  attacks  ;  he  bore  them  with  impatience,  and 
knew  not  how  to  retaliate.  The  Countess,  accustomed  to 
the  respect  of  the  world,  could  not  calmly  bear  to  see  her- 


self  an  object  of  calumny  and  ridicule.  With  tears  in  hei 
eyes  she  complained  to  Ibrahim,  now  bitterly  reproaching 
him,  now  imploring  him  not  to  defend  her,  lest  by  some  use- 
less brawl  she  should  be  completely  ruined. 

A  new  circumstance  tended  to  make  her  position  still 
more  difficult :  the  result  of  imprudent  love  began  to  be 
noticeable.  The  Countess  in  despair  informed  Ibrahim  of 
the  matter.  Consolation,  advice,  proposals — all  were  ex- 
hausted and  all  rejected.  The  Countess  saw  that  her  ruin 
was  inevitable,  and  in  despair  awaited  it. 

As  soon  as  the  condition  of  the  Countess  became  known, 
gossip  began  again  with  renewed  vigour ;  sentimental  women 
gave  vent  to  exclamations  of  horror;  and  epigrams  were 
disseminated  with  reference  to  her  husband,  who  alone  in 
all  Paris  knew  nothing  and  suspected  nothing. 

The  fatal  moment  approached.  The  condition  of  the 
Countess  was  terrible.  Ibrahim  visited  her  every  day.  He 
saw  her  mental  and  physical  strength  gradually  giving  way. 
Her  tears  and  her  terror  were  renewed  every  moment 
Measures  were  hastily  taken.  Means  were  found  for  getting 
the  Count  out  of  the  way.  The  doctor  arrived.  Two  days 
before  this  a  poor  woman  had  been  persuaded  to  resign  into 
the  hands  of  strangers  her  new-born  infant ;  for  this  a  confi- 
dential person  was  sent.  Ibrahim  was  in  the  room  adjoining 
the  bedchamber  where  lay  the  unhappy  Countess.  .  .  .  Sud- 
denly he  heard  the  weak  cry  of  a  child — and,  unable  to 
repress  his  delight,  he  rushed  into  the  Countess's  room.  .  .  . 
A  black  baby  lay  upon  the  bed  at  her  feet.  Ibrahim  ap- 
proached it.  His  heart  beat  violently.  He  blessed  his  son 
with  a  trembling  hand.  The  Countess  smiled  faintly  and 
stretched  out  to  him  her  feeble  hand,  but  the  doctor,  fearing 
that  the  excitement  might  be  too  great  for  the  patient, 
dragged  Ibrahim  away  from  her  bed.  The  new-born  child 
was  placed  in  a  covered  basket,  and  carried  out  of  the  house 


by  a  secret  staircase.  Then  the  other  child  was  brought  in, 
and  its  cradle  placed  in  the  bedroom.  Ibrahim  took  his 
departure,  feeling  very  ill  at  ease.  The  Count  was  expected. 
He  returned  late,  heard  of  the  happy  deliverance  of  his 
wife,  and  was  much  gratified.  In  this  way  the  public, 
which  had  been  expecting  a  great  scandal,  was  deceived  in 
its  hope,  and  was  compelled  to  console  itself  with  slandering. 
Everything  resumed  its  usual  course. 

But  Ibrahim  felt  that  there  would  have  to  be  a  change 
in  his  lot,  and  that  sooner  or  later  his  relations  with  the 
Countess  would  come  to  the  knowledge  of  her  husband. 
In  that  case,  whatever  might  happen,  the  ruin  of  the 
Countess  was  inevitable.  Ibrahim  loved  passionately  and 
was  passionately  loved  in  return,  but  the  Countess  was 
wilful  and  light-minded ;  it  was  not  the  first  time  that  she 
had  loved.  Disgust,  and  even  hatred  might  replace  in  her 
heart  the  most  tender  feelings.  Ibrahim  already  foresaw 
the  moment  of  her  coolness.  Hitherto  he  had  not  known 
jealousy,  but  with  dread  he  now  felt  a  presentiment  of  it ; 
he  thought  that  the  pain  of  separation  would  be  less  dis- 
tressing, and  he  resolved  to  break  off  the  unhappy  connec- 
tion, leave  Paris,  and  return  to  Russia,  whither  Peter  and  a 
vague  sense  of  duty  had  been  calling  him  for  a  long  time. 



DAYS,  months  passed,  and  the  enamoured  Ibrahim 
could  not  resolve  to  leave  the  woman  that  he  had 
seduced.  The  Countess  grew  more  and  more  attached  to 
him.  Their  son  was  being  brought  up  in  a  distant  pro- 
vince. The  slanders  of  the  world  were  beginning  to 
subside,  and  the  lovers  began  to  enjoy  greater  tranquillity, 
silently  remembering  the  past  storm  and  endeavouring  not 
to  think  of  the  future. 

One  day  Ibrahim  was  in  the  lobby  of  the  Duke  of 
Orleans'  residence.  The  Duke,  passing  by  him,  stopped, 
and  handing  him  a  letter,  told  him  to  read  it  at  his  leisure. 
It  was  a  letter  from  Peter  the  First.  The  Emperor,  guessing 
the  true  cause  of  his  absence,  wrote  to  the  Duke  that  he 
had  no  intention  of  compelling  Ibrahim,  that  he  left  it  to 
his  own  free  will  to  return  to  Russia  or  not,  but  that  in 
any  case  he  would  never  abandon  his  former  foster-child. 
This  letter  touched  Ibrahim  to  the  bottom  of  his  heart. 
From  that  moment  his  resolution  was  taken.  The  next  day 
he  informed  the  Regent  of  his  intention  to  set  out  imme- 
diately for  Russia. 

"  Reflect  upon  what  you  are  going  to  do,"  said  the  Duke 
to  him :  "  Russia  is  not  your  native  country.  I  do  not 
think  that  you  will  ever  again  see  your  torrid  home,  but 
your  long  residence  in  France  has  made  you  equally  a 
stranger  to  the  climate  and  the  ways  of  life  of  semi-civilized 
Russia.  You  were  not  born  a  subject  of  Peter.  Listen  to 
my  advice  :  take  advantage  of  his  magnanimous  permission. 


remain  in  France,  for  which  you  have  already  shed  your 
blood,  and  rest  assured  that  here  your  services  and  talents 
will  not  remain  unrewarded." 

Ibrahim  thanked  the  Duke  sincerely,  but  remained  firm 
in  his  resolution. 

"  I  feel  very  sorry,"  said  the  Regent  :  "  but  perhaps  you 
are  right." 

He  promised  to  let  him  retire  from  the  French  service, 
and  wrote  a  full  account  of  the  matter  to  the  Czar. 

Ibrahim  was  soon  ready  for  the  journey.  On  the  eve  of 
his  departure  he  spent  the  evening  as  usual  at  the  house  of 

the  Countess   L .     She  knew  nothing.     Ibrahim  had 

not  the  courage  to  inform  her  of  his  intention.  The 
Countess  was  calm  and  cheerful.  She  several  times  called 
him  to  her  and  joked  about  his  thoughtfulness.  After 
supper  the  guests  departed.  The  Countess,  her  husband, 
and  Ibrahim  were  left  alone  in  the  parlour.  The  unhappy 
man  would  have  given  everything  in  the  world  to   have 

been  left  alone  with  her ;  but  Count  L seemed  to  have 

seated  himself  so  comfortably  beside  the  fire,  that  it  ap- 
peared useless  to  hope  that  he  would  leave  the  room.  All 
three  remained  silent. 

"Bonne  niiitV  said  the  Countess  at  last. 

A  pang  passed  through  Ibrahim's  heart,  and  he  suddenly 
felt  all  the  horrors  of  parting.     He  stood  motionless. 

**  Bonne  nuit^  messieurs  !  "  repeated  the  Countess. 

Still  he  remained  motionless.  ...  At  last  his  eyes 
became  dim,  his  head  swam  round,  and  he  could  scarcely 
walk  out  of  the  room.  On  reaching  home,  he  wrote, 
almost  unconsciously,  the  following  letter  : 

"  I  am  going  away,  dear  Leonora ;  I  am  leaving  you  for 
ever.  I  am  writing  to  you,  because  I  have  not  the  strength 
to  inform  you  otherwise. 


"  My  happiness  could  not  continue :  I  have  enjoyed  it 
against  fate  and  nature.  You  must  have  ceased  to  love 
me ;  the  enchantment  must  have  vanished.  This  thought 
has  always  pursued  me,  even  in  those  moments  when  I 
have  seemed  to  forget  everything,  when  at  your  feet  I  have 
been  intoxicated  by  your  passionate  self-denial,  by  your 
unbounded  tenderness.  .  .  .  The  thoughtless  world  un- 
mercifully runs  down  that  which  it  permits  in  theory;  its 
cold  irony  sooner  or  later  would  have  vanquished  you,  would 
have  humbled  your  ardent  soul,  and  at  last  you  would  have 
become  ashamed  of  your  passion.  .  .  .  What  would  then 
have  become  of  me  ?  No,  it  were  better  that  I  should  die, 
better  that  I  should  leave  you  before  that  terrible  moment. 

"  Your  tranquillity  is  dearer  to  me  than  everything  :  you 
could  not  enjoy  it  while  the  eyes  of  the  world  were  fixed 
upon  you.  Think  of  all  that  you  have  suffered,  all  your 
wounded  self-love,  all  the  tortures  of  fear ;  remember  the 
terrible  birth  of  our  son.  Think :  ought  I  to  expose  you 
any  longer  to  such  agitations  and  dangers  ?  Why  should  I 
endeavour  to  unite  the  fate  of  such  a  tender,  beautiful 
creature  to  the  miserable  fate  of  a  negro,  of  a  pitiable  being, 
scarce  worthy  of  the  name  of  man  ? 

*•  Farewell,  Leonora;  farewell,  my  dear  and  only  friend. 
I  am  leaving  you,  I  am  leaving  the  first  and  last  joy  of  my 
life.  I  have  neither  fatherland  nor  kindred ;  I  am  going  to 
Russia,  where  my  utter  loneliness  will  be  a  consolation  to 
me.  Serious  business,  to  which  from  this  time  forth  I 
devote  myself,  if  it  will  not  stifle,  will  at  least  divert  painful 
recollections  of  the  days  of  rapture  and  bliss.  .  .  .  Farewell, 
Leonora !  I  tear  myself  away  from  this  letter,  as  if  from 
your  embrace.  Farewell,  be  happy,  and  think  sometimes  of 
the  poor  negro,  of  your  faithful  Ibrahim." 

That  same  night  he  set  out  for  Russia. 

PETER  THE  GREATS  NEGRO.        43 1 

The  journey  did  not  seem  to  him  as  terrible  as  he  had 
expected.  His  imagination  triumphed  over  the  reality. 
The  further  he  got  from  Paris,  the  more  vivid  and  nearer 
rose  up  before  him  the  objects  he  was  leaving  for  ever. 

Before  he  was  aware  of  it  he  had  crossed  the  Russian 
frontier.  Autumn  had  already  set  in,  but  the  postilions,  in 
spite  of  the  bad  state  of  the  roads,  drove  him  with  the 
speed  of  the  wind,  and  on  the  seventeenth  day  of  his 
journey  he  arrived  at  Krasnoe  Selo,  through  which  at  that 
time  the  high  road  passed. 

It  was  still  a  distance  of  twenty-eight  versts  to  Petersburg. 
While  the  horses  were  being  changed,  Ibrahim  entered  the 
post-house.  In  a  corner,  a  tall  man,  in  a  green  caftan  and 
with  a  clay  pipe  in  his  mouth,  was  leaning  with  his  elbows 
upon  the  table  reading  the  *'  Hamburg  Gazette."  Hearing 
somebody  enter,  he  raised  his  head. 

"  Ah,  Ibrahim  1 "  he  exclaimed,  rising  from  the  bench. 
"  How  do  you  do,  godson  ?  " 

Ibrahim  recognized  Peter,  and  in  his  delight  was  about 
to  rush  towards  him,  but  he  respectfully  paused.  The 
Emperor  approached,  embraced  him  and  kissed  him  upon 
the  forehead. 

*'  I  was  informed  of  your  coming,"  said  Peter,  **  and  set 
off  to  meet  you.  I  have  been  waiting  for  you  here  since 

Ibrahim  could  not  find  words  to  express  his  gratitude. 

"Let  your  carriage  follow  on  behind  us,"  continued 
the  Emperor,  "  and  you  take  your  place  by  my  side  and  ride 
along  with  me." 

The  Czar's  carriage  was  driven  up  ;  he  took  his  seat  with 
Ibrahim,  and  they  set  off  at  a  gallop.  In  about  an  hour 
and  a  half  they  reached  Petersburg.  Ibrahim  gazed  with 
curiosity  at  the  new-born  city  which  had  sprung  up  at  the 
beck  of  his  master.      Bare  banks,  canals  without  quay 5, 

432      poushkin's  prose  tales. 

wooden  bridges  everywhere  testified  to  the  recent  triumph  of 
the  human  will  over  the  hostile  elements.  The  houses 
seemed  to  have  been  built  in  a  hurry.  In  the  whole  town 
there  was  nothing  magnificent  but  the  Neva,  not  yet 
ornamented  with  its  granite  frame,  but  already  covered  with 
warships  and  merchant  vessels.  The  imperial  carriage 
stopped  at  the  palace,  /.<?.,  at  the  Tsaritsin  Garden.  On  the 
steps  Peter  was  met  by  a  woman  of  about  thirty-five  years 
of  age,  handsome,  and  dressed  in  the  latest  Parisian 
fashion.  Peter  kissed  her  and,  taking  Ibrahim  by  the  hand, 
said  : 

"  Do  you  recognize  my  godson,  Katinka  ?  ^  I  beg  you  to 
love  and  favour  him  as  formerly." 

Catherine  fixed  on  him  her  dark  piercing  eyes,  and 
stretched  out  her  hand  to  him  in  a  friendly  manner.  Two 
young  beauties,  tall,  slender,  and  fresh  as  roses,  stood 
behind  her  and  respectfully  approached  Peter. 

"  Liza,"  said  he  to  one  of  them,  "  do  you  remember  the 
little  negro  who  stole  my  apples  for  you  at  Oranienbaum  ? 
Here  he  is ;  I  introduce  him  to  you." 

The  Grand  Duchess  laughed  and  blushed.  They  went 
into  the  dining-room.  In  expectation  of  the  Emperor  the 
table  had  been  laid.  Peter  sat  down  to  dinner  with  all  his 
family,  and  invited  Ibrahim  to  sit  down  with  them.  During 
the  course  of  the  dinner  the  Emperor  conversed  with  him  on 
various  subjects,  questioned  him  about  the  Spanish  war,  the 
internal  afi"airs  of  France  and  the  Regent,  whom  he  liked, 
although  he  blamed  him  for  many  things.  Ibrahim  possessed 
an  exact  and  observant  mind.  Peter  was  very  pleased 
with  his  replies.  He  recalled  to  mind  some  features  of 
Ibrahim's  childhood,  and  related  them  with  such  good- 
humour  and  gaiety,  that  nobody  could  have  suspected  this 

^  Diminutive  of  Catherine. 


kind  and  hospitable  host  to  be  the  hero  of  Poltava/  the 
powerful  and  terrible  reformer  of  Russia. 

After  dinner  the  Emperor,  according  to  the  Russian 
custom,  retired  to  rest.  Ibrahim  remained  with  the  Em- 
press and  the  Grand  Duchesses.  He  tried  to  satisfy  their 
curiosity,  described  the  Parisian  way  of  life,  the  holidays 
that  were  kept  there,  and  the  changeable  fashions.  In 
the  meantime,  some  of  the  persons  belonging  to  the 
Emperor's  suite  had  assembled  in  the  palace.  Ibrahim 
recognized  the  magnificent  Prince  MenshikofF,  who,  seeing 
the  negro  conversing  with  Catherine,  cast  an  arrogant 
glance  at  him;  Prince  Jacob  Dolgorouky,  Peter's  stern 
counsellor;  the  learned  Bruce,^  who  had  acquired  among 
the  people  the  name  of  the  "  Russian  Faust " ;  the  young 
Ragouzinsky,  his  former  companion,  and  others  who  had 
come  to  bring  reports  to  the  Emperor  and  to  await  his 

In  about  two  hours'  time  the  Emperor  appeared. 

"  Let  us  see,"  said  he  to  Ibrahim,  "  if  you  have  forgotten 
your  old  duties.     Take  a  slate  and  follow  me." 

Peter  shut  himself  up  in  his  work-room  and  busied 
himself  with  state  affairs.  He  worked  in  turns  with  Bruce, 
with  Prince  Dolgorouky,  and  with  General  Police-master 
Devier,  and  dictated  to  Ibrahim  several  ukases  and  de- 
cisions. Ibrahim  could  not  help  feeling  astonished  at  the 
quickness  and  firmness  of  his  understanding,  the  strength 
and  pliability  of  his  powers  of  observation,  and  the  variety 
of  his  occupations.  When  the  work  was  finished,  Peter 
drew  out  a  pocket-book  in  order  to  see  if  all  that  he  had 
proposed  to  do  that  day  had  been  accomplished.  Then, 
issuing  from  the  work-room,  he  said  to  Ibrahim  : 

^  A  town  in  the  Ukraine,  where,  in  1709,  the  Swedes,  under  Charles 
XII.,  were  completely  routed  by  the  Russians  under  Peter  the  Great. 
^  Peter  the  Great  encouraged  foreigners  of  ability  to  settle  in  Russia. 


"  It  is  late  ;  no  doubt  you  are  tired, — sleep  here  to-night. 
as  you  used  to  do  in  the  old  times ;  to-morrow  I  will  wake 

Ibrahim,  on  being  left  alone,  could  hardly  collect  his 
thoughts.  He  found  himself  in  Petersburg ;  he  saw  again 
the  great  man,  near  whom,  not  yet  knowing  his  worth,  he 
had  passed  his  childhood.   Almost  with  regret  he  confessed 

to  himself  that  the  Countess  L ,  for  the  first  time  since 

their  separation,  had  not  been  his  sole  thought  during  the 
whole  of  the  day.  He  saw  that  the  new  mode  of  life  which 
awaited  him, — the  activity  and  constant  occupation, — would 
revive  his  soul,  wearied  by  passion,  idleness  and  secret 
grief.  The  thought  of  being  a  fellow-worker  with  the  great 
man,  and,  in  conjunction  with  him,  of  influencing  the  fate  of 
a  great  nation,  aroused  within  him  for  the  first  time  the  noble 
feeling  of  ambition.  In  this  disposition  of  mind  he  lay 
down  upon  the  camp  bed  prepared  for  him,  and  then  the 
usual  dreams  carried  him  back  to  far-off  Paris,  to  the  arms 
of  his  dear  Countess. 


CHAPTER   111. 

THE  next  morning,  Peter,  according  to  his  promise, 
awoke  Ibrahim  and  congratulated  him  on  his  elevation 
to  the  rank  of  Captain-lieutenant  of  the  Grenadier  company 
of  the  Preobrajensky  Regiment,^  in  which  he  himself  was 
Captain.  The  courtiers  surrounded  Ibrahim,  each  in  his 
way  trying  to  flatter  the  new  favourite.  The  haughty  Prince 
Menshikoff  pressed  his  hand  in  a  friendly  manner;  Shere- 
metieff  inquired  after  his  Parisian  acquaintances,  and  Golovin 
invited  him  to  dinner.  Others  followed  the  example  of  the 
latter,  so  that  Ibrahim  received  invitations  for  at  least  a 
whole  month. 

Ibrahim  now  began  to  lead  a  monotonous  but  busy  life, 
consequently  he  did  not  feel  at  all  dull.  From  day  to  day 
he  became  more  attached  to  the  Emperor,  and  was  better 
able  to  estimate  his  lofty  soul.  To  follow  the  thoughts  of  a 
great  man  is  a  very  interesting  study.  Ibrahim  saw  Peter 
in  the  Senate  disputing  with  Boutourlin  and  Dolgorouky,  in 
the  Admiralty  College  discussing  the  naval  power  of  Russia ; 
in  his  hours  of  leisure  he  saw  him  with  Feophan,  Gavril 
Boujinsky,  and  Kopievitch,  examining  translations  from 
foreign  publications,  or  visiting  the  manufactory  of  a  mer- 
chant, the  workshop  of  a  mechanic,  or  the  study  of  some 
learned  man.  Russia  presented  to  Ibrahim  the  appearance 
of  a  huge  workshop,  where  machines  alone  move,  where  each 
workman,  subject  to  established  rules,  is  occupied  with  his 

^  One  of  the  "crack "  regiments  of  the  Russian  Array. 


own  particular  business.  He  felt  within  himself  that  he 
ought  to  work  at  his  own  bench  also,  and  endeavour  to 
regret  as  little  as  possible  the  gaieties  of  his  Parisian  life. 
But  it  was  more  difficult  for  him  to  drive  from  his  mind  that 
other  dear  recollection :  he  often  thought  of  the  Countess 

L ,  and  pictured  to  himself  her  just  indignation,  her 

tears  and  her  grief.  .  .  .  But  sometimes  a  terrible  thought 
oppressed  him  :  the  seductions  of  the  great  world,  a  new 
tie,  another  favourite — he  shuddered;  jealousy  began  to 
set  his  African  blood  in  a  ferment,  and  hot  tears  were  ready 
to  roll  down  his  swarthy  face. 

One  morning  he  was  sitting  in  his  study,  surrounded  by 
business  papers,  when  suddenly  he  heard  a  loud  greeting  in 
French.  Ibrahim  turned  round  quickly,  and  young  Kor- 
sakoff, whom  he  had  left  in  Paris  in  the  whirl  of  the  great 
world,  embraced  him  with  joyful  exclamations. 

"  I  have  only  just  arrived,"  said  Korsakoff,  "  and  I  have 
come  straight  to  you.  All  our  Parisian  acquaintances  send 
their  greetings  to  you,  and  regret  your  absence.  The 
Countess  L ordered  me  to  summon  you  to  return  with- 
out fail,  and  here  is  her  letter  to  you." 

Ibrahim  seized  it  with  a  trembling  hand  and  looked  at  the 
well-known  handwriting  of  the  address,  not  daring  to  believe 
his  eyes. 

"  How  glad  I  am,"  continued  Korsakoff,  "  that  you  have 
not  yet  died  of  ennui  in  this  barbarous  Petersburg !  What 
do  people  do  here?  How  do  they  occupy  themselves? 
Who  is  your  tailor?    Have  they  established  an  opera?" 

Ibrahim  absently  replied  that  probably  the  Emperor  was 
just  then  at  work  in  the  dockyard. 

Korsakoff  laughed. 

"  I  see,"  said  he,  "  that  you  do  not  want  me  just  now  j 
some  other  time  we  will  have  a  long  chat  together ;  I  am 
now  going  to  pay  my  respects  to  the  Emperor." 


With  these  words  he  turned  on  his  heel  and  hastened  out 
of  the  room. 

Ibrahim,  left  alone,  hastily  opened  the  letter.  The 
Countess  tenderly  complained  to  him,  reproaching  him 
with  dissimulation  and  distrustfulness. 

"  You  say,"  wrote  she,  "  that  my  tranquillity  is  dearer  to 
you  than  everything  in  the  world.  Ibrahim,  if  this  were  the 
truth,  would  you  have  brought  me  to  the  condition  to  which 
I  was  reduced  by  the  unexpected  news  of  your  departure  ? 
You  were  afraid  that  I  might  have  detained  you.  Be 
assured  that,  in  spite  of  my  love,  I  should  have  known  how 
to  sacrifice  it  for  your  happiness  and  for  what  you  consider 
your  duty." 

The  Countess  ended  the  letter  with  passionate  assurances 
of  love,  and  implored  him  to  write  to  her,  if  only  now  and 
then,  even  though  there  should  be  no  hope  of  their  ever 
seeing  each  other  again. 

Ibrahim  read  this  letter  through  twenty  times,  kissing  the 
priceless  lines  with  rapture.  He  was  burning  with  impatience 
to  hear  something  about  the  Countess,  and  he  was  just  pre- 
paring to  set  out  for  the  Admiralty,  hoping  to  find  Korsakoff 
still  there,  when  the  door  opened,  and  Korsakoff  himself 
appeared  once  more.  He  had  already  paid  his  respects  to 
the  Emperor,  and  as  was  usual  with  him,  he  seemed  very 
well  satisfied  with  himself. 

^^ Entre  nouSy^  he  said  to  Ibrahim,  "the  Emperor  is  a 
very  strange  man.  Just  fancy,  I  found  him  in  a  sort  of  linen 
under-vest,  on  the  mast  of  a  new  ship,  whither  I  was  com- 
pelled to  climb  with  my  dispatches.  I  stood  on  the  rope 
ladder,  and  had  not  sufficient  room  to  make  a  suitable  bow, 
and  so  I  became  completely  confused,  a  thing  that  had  never 
happened  to  me  in  my  life  before.  However,  when  the 
Emperor  had  read  my  letter,  he  looked  at  me  from  head  to 
foot,  and  no  doubt  was  agreeably  struck  by  the  taste  and 


splendour  of  my  attire;  at  any  rate  he  smiled  and  invited 
me  to  to-day's  assembly.  But  I  am  a  perfect  stranger  in 
Petersburg ;  during  the  course  of  my  six  years'  absence  I 
have  quite  forgotten  the  local  customs ;  pray  be  my  mentor ; 
come  with  me  and  introduce  me." 

Ibrahim  agreed  to  do  so,  and  hastened  to  turn  the  con- 
versation  to  a  subject  that  was  more  interesting  to  him. 

"  Well,  and  how  about  the  Countess  L ." 

"  The  Countess  ?  Of  course,  at  first  she  was  very  much 
grieved  on  account  of  your  departure ;  then,  of  course,  little 
by  little,  she  grew  reconciled  and  took  unto  herself  a  new 
lover:    do  you  know  whom?     The   long-legged  Marquis 

R .     Why  do  you  show  the  whites  of  your  negro  eyes  in 

that  manner?  Does  it  seem  strange  to  you?  Don't  you 
know  that  lasting  grief  is  not  in  human  nature,  particularly 
in  feminine  nature  ?  Think  over  this  well,  while  I  go  and 
rest  after  my  journey,  and  don't  forget  to  come  and  call 
for  me." 

What  feelings  filled  the  soul  of  Ibrahim?  Jealousy? 
Rage  ?  Despair  ?  No,  but  a  deep,  oppressing  sorrow.  He 
repeated  to  himself :  "  I  foresaw  it,  it  had  to  happen."  Then 
he  opened  the  Countess's  letter,  read  it  again,  hung  his 
head  and  wept  bitterly.  He  wept  for  a  long  time.  The 
tears  relieved  his  heart.  Looking  at  the  clock,  he  perceived 
that  it  was  time  to  set  out.  Ibrahim  would  have  been  very 
glad  to  stay  away,  but  the  assembly  was  a  matter  of  duty, 
and  the  Emperor  strictly  demanded  the  presence  of  his 
retainers.  He  dressed  himself  and  started  out  to  call  for 

Korsakoff  was  sitting  in  his  dressing-gown,  reading  a 
French  book. 

"  So  early  ?  "  he  said  to  Ibrahim,  on  seeing  him. 

"  Pardon  me,"  the  latter  replied;  *'it  is  already  half-past 
five,  we  shall  be  late  ;  make  haste  and  dress  and  let  us  go." 


Korsakoff  started  up  and  rang  the  bell  with  all  his  might; 
the  servants  came  running  in,  and  he  began  hastily  to  dress 
himself.  His  French  valet  gave  him  shoes  with  red  heels, 
blue  velvet  breeches,  and  a  red  caftan  embroidered  with 
spangles.  His  peruke  was  hurriedly  powdered  in  the  ante- 
chamber and  brought  in  to  him.  Korsakoff  placed  it  upon 
his  cropped  head,  asked  for  his  sword  and  gloves,  turned 
round  about  ten  times  before  the  glass,  and  then  informed 
Ibrahim  that  he  was  ready.  The  footmen  handed  them 
their  bearskin  cloaks,  and  they  set  out  for  the  Winter 

Korsakoff  overwhelmed  Ibrahim  with  questions :  Who 
was  the  greatest  beauty  in  Petersburg  ?  Who  was  supposed 
to  be  the  best  dancer?  Which  dance  was  just  then  the 
rage?  Ibrahim  very  reluctantly  gratified  his  curiosity. 
Meanwhile  they  reached  the  palace.  A  great  number  of 
long  sledges,  old-fashioned  carriages,  and  gilded  coaches 
already  stood  on  the  lawn.  Near  the  steps  were  crowded 
coachmen  in  liveries  and  moustaches;  running  footmen 
glittering  with  tinsel  and  feathers,  and  bearing  staves; 
hussars,  pages,  and  clumsy  servants  loaded  with  the  cloaks 
and  muffs  of  their  masters — a  train  indispensable  according 
to  the  notions  of  the  gentry  of  that  time.  At  the  sight  of 
Ibrahim,  a  general  murmur  arose  :  **  The  negro,  the  negro, 
the  Czar's  negro ! "  He  hurriedly  conducted  Korsakoff 
through  this  motley  crowd.  The  Court  lackey  opened  wide 
the  doors  to  them,  and  they  entered  the  hall.  Korsakoff 
was  dumfounded.  ...  In  the  large  room,  illuminated  by 
tallow  candles,  which  burnt  dimly  amidst  clouds  of  tobacco 
smoke,  magnates  with  blue  ribbons  across  their  shoulders, 
ambassadors,  foreign  merchants,  officers  of  the  Guards  in 
green  uniforms,  ship-masters  in  jackets  and  striped  trousers, 
moved  backwards  and  forwards  in  crowds  to  the  uninter- 
rupted sound  of  the  music  of  wind  instruments.     The  ladies 

440         POUSHKIN'S  PROSE  TALES. 

sat  against  the  walls,  the  young  ones  being  decked  out  in  all 
the  splendour  of  the  prevailing  fashion.  Gold  and  silver 
glittered  upon  their  dresses ;  out  of  monstrous  farthingales 
their  slender  forms  rose  like  flower  stalks;  diamonds 
sparkled  in  their  ears,  in  their  long  curls,  and  around  their 
necks.  They  glanced  gaily  about  to  the  right  and  to  the 
left,  waiting  for  their  cavaliers  and  for  the  dancing  to  begin. 
The  elderly  ladies  craftily  endeavoured  to  combine  the  new 
style  of  dress  with  that  of  the  past ;  their  caps  were  made  to 
resemble  the  small  sable  head-dress  of  the  Empress  Natalia 
Kirilovna,^  and  their  gowns  and  mantles  recalled  the 
sarafan  and  doushegreika^  They  seemed  to  take  part  in 
these  newly  introduced  amusements  more  with  astonishment 
than  pleasure,  and  cast  looks  of  resentment  at  the  wives  and 
daughters  of  the  Dutch  skippers,  who,  in  dimity  skirts  and 
red  jackets,  knitted  their  stockings  and  laughed  and  chatted 
among  themselves  as  if  they  were  at  home. 

Observing  new  arrivals,  a  servant  approached  them  with 
beer  and  glasses  on  a  tray.  Korsakoff  was  completely 

"  Que  diable  est  ce  que  tout  cela  1 "  he  said  in  a  whisper  to 

Ibrahim  could  not  repress  a  smile.  The  Empress  and 
the  Grand  Duchesses,  dazzling  in  their  beauty  and  their 
attire,  walked  through  the  rows  of  guests,  conversing  affably 
with  them.  The  Emperor  was  in  another  room.  Korsakoff", 
wishing  to  show  himself  to  him,  with  difficulty  succeeded  in 
pushing  his  way  thither  through  the  constantly  moving 
crowd.  In  this  room  were  chiefly  foreigners,  solemnly 
smoking  their  clay  pipes  and  drinking  out  of  earthenware 
jugs.  On  the  tables  were  bottles  of  beer  and  wine,  leather 
pouches  with  tobacco,  glasses  of  punch,  and  some  chess- 

^  The  mother  of  Peter  the  Great.  "^  A  short  sleeveless  jacket. 


i(  boards.  At  one  of  these  Peter  was  playing  at  chess  with  a 
!  i  broad-shouldered  English  skipper.  They  zealously  saluted 
;'  one  another  with  whiffs  of  tobacco  smoke,  and  the  Emperor 
!  was  so  occupied  with  an  unexpected  move  that  had  been 
,  i  made  by  his  opponent,  that  he  did  not  observe  Korsakoff,  as 
!  he  smirked  and  capered  about  them.  Just  then  a  stout 
1  gentleman,  with  a  large  bouquet  upon  his  breast,  rushed 
i  hurriedly  into  the  room  and  announced  in  a  loud  voice  that 
j  the  dancing  had  commenced,  and  immediately  retired.  A 
large  number  of  the  guests  followed  him,  Korsakoff  being 
1   among  the  number. 

;  An  unexpected  scene  filled  him  with  astonishment.  Along 
the  whole  length  of  the  ball-room,  to  the  sound  of  the  most 
mournful  music,  the  ladies  and  gentlemen  stood  in  two  rows 
racing  each  other;  the  gentlemen  bowed  low,  the  ladies 
curtsied  still  lower,  first  to  the  front,  then  to  the  right,  then 
to  the  left,  then  again  to  the  front,  again  to  the  right,  and  so 
on.  Korsakoff,  gazing  at  this  peculiar  style  of  amusement, 
opened  wide  his  eyes  and  bit  his  lips.  The  curtseying  and 
bowing  continued  for  about  half  an  hour;  at  last  they 
ceased,  and  the  stout  gentleman  with  the  bouquet  announced 
that  the  ceremonial  dances  were  ended,  and  ordered  the 
musicians  to  play  a  minuet.  Korsakoff  felt  delighted,  and 
prepared  to  shine.  Among  the  young  ladies  was  one  in 
particular  whom  he  was  greatly  charmed  with.  She  was 
about  sixteen  years  of  age,  was  richly  dressed,  but  with 
taste,  and  sat  near  an  elderly  gentleman  of  stern  and  dignified 
appearance.  Korsakoff  approached  her  and  asked  her  to  do 
him  the  honour  of  dancing  with  him.  The  young  beauty 
looked  at  him  in  confusion,  and  did  not  seem  to  know  what 
to  say  to  him.  The  gentleman  sitting  near  her  frowned 
still  more.  Korsakoff  awaited  her  decision,  but  the  gentle- 
man with  the  bouquet  came  up  to  him,  led  him  to  the 
middle  of  the  room,  and  said  in  a  pompous  manner ; 


'*  Sir,  you  have  done  wrong.  In  the  first  place,  you 
approached  this  young  person  without  making  the  three 
necessary  reverences  to  her,  and  in  the  second  place,  you 
took  upon  yourself  to  choose  her,  whereas,  in  the  minuet 
that  right  belongs  to  the  lady,  and  not  to  the  gentleman. 
On  that  account  you  must  be  severely,  punished,  that  is  to 
say,  you  must  drain  the  goblet  of  the  Great  Eagle." 

Korsakoff  grew  more  and  more  astonished.  In  a  moment 
the  guests  surrounded  him,  loudly  demanding  the  imme- 
diate fulfilment  of  the  law.  Peter,  hearing  the  laughter  and 
the  cries,  came  out  of  the  adjoining  room,  as  he  was  very 
fond  of  being  present  in  person  at  such  punishments.  The 
crowd  divided  before  him,  and  he  entered  the  circle,  where 
stood  the  culprit  and  before  him  the  marshal  of  the  Court 
holding  in  his  hands  a  huge  goblet  filled  with  malmsey  wine. 
He  was  trying  in  vain  to  persuade  the  offender  to  comply 
willingly  with  the  law. 

"Aha  !"  said  Peter,  seeing  Korsakoff:  "you  are  caught, 
my  friend.  Come  now,  monsieur,  drink  up  and  no  frown- 
ing about  it." 

There  was  no  help  for  it :  the  poor  beau,  without  pausing 
to  take  breath,  drained  the  goblet  to  the  dregs  and  returned 
it  to  the  marshal. 

"  Hark  you,  Korsakoff,"  said  Peter  to  him :  "  those 
breeches  of  yours  are  of  velvet,  such  as  I  myself  do  not 
wear,  and  I  am  far  richer  than  you.  That  is  extravagance ; 
take  care  that  I  do  not  fall  out  with  you." 

Hearing  this  reprimand,  Korsakoff  wished  to  make  his 
way  out  of  the  circle,  but  he  staggered  and  almost  fell,  to  the 
indescribable  delight  of  the  Emperor  and  all  the  merry  com- 
pany. This  episode  not  only  did  not  spoil  the  unison  and 
interest  of  the  principal  performance,  but  even  enlivened  it. 
The  gentlemen  began  to  scrape  and  bow,  and  the  ladies  to 
curtsey  and  knock  their  heels  with  great  zeal,  and  this  time 


without  paying  the  least  attention  to  the  time  of  the  music. 
Korsakoff  could  not  take  part  in  the  general  gaiety.  The 
lady,  whom  he  had  chosen,  by  the  order  of  her  father, 
Gavril  Afanassievitch  Rjevsky,  approached  Ibrahim,  and, 
dropping  her  blue  eyes,  timidly  gave  him  her  hand. 
Ibrahim  danced  the  minuet  with  her  and  led  her  back  to 
her  former  place,  then  sought  out  Korsakoff,  led  him  out  of 
the  ball-room,  placed  him  in  the  carriage  and  drove  home. 
On  the  way  Korsakoff  began  to  mutter  in  an  incoherent 
manner :  "  Accursed  assembly  !  .  .  .  accursed  goblet  of  the 
Great  Eagle  ! "  .  .  .  but  he  soon  fell  into  a  sound  sleep,  and 
knew  not  how  he  reached  home,  nor  how  he  was  undressed 
and  put  into  bed :  and  he  awoke  the  next  day  with  a  head- 
ache, and  with  a  dim  recollection  of  the  scraping,  the 
curtseying,  the  tobacco-smoke,  the  gentleman  with  the 
bouquet,  and  the  goblet  of  the  Great  Eagle. 




r  MUST  now  introduce  the  gracious  reader  to  Gavril 
A  Afanassievitch  Rjevsky.  He  was  descended  from  an 
ancient  noble  family,  possessed  vast  estates,  was  hospitable, 
loved  falconry,  and  had  a  large  number  of  domestics, — in  a 
word,  he  was  a  genuine  Russian  nobleman.  To  use  his  own 
expression,  he  could  not  endure  the  German  spirit,  and  he 
endeavoured  to  preserve  in  his  home  the  ancient  customs 
that  were  so  dear  to  him.  His  daughter  was  in  her  seven- 
teenth year.  She  had  lost  her  mother  while  she  was  yet  in 
her  infancy,  and  she  had  been  brought  up  in  the  old  style, 
that  is  to  say,  she  was  surrounded  by  governesses,  nurses, 
playfellows,  and  maidservants,  was  able  to  embroider  in 
gold,  and  could  neither  read  nor  write.  Her  father,  notwith- 
standing his  dislike  to  everything  foreign,  could  not  oppose 
her  wish  to  learn  German  dances  from  a  captive  Swedish 
officer,  living  in  their  house.  This  deserving  dancing- 
master  was  about  fifty  years  of  age ;  his  right  foot  had  been 
shot  through  at  Narva,^  and  consequently  he  was  not  very 
well  suited  for  minuets  and  courantes,  but  the  left  executed 
with  wonderful  ease  and  agiHty  the  most  difficult  steps.  His 
pupil  did  honour  to  his  teaching.  Natalia  Gavrilovna  was 
celebrated  for  being  the  best  dancer  at  the  assemblies, 
and  this  was  partly  the  cause  of  the  mistake  made  by 
Korsakoff,  who  came  the  next  day  to  apologize  to  Gavril 

^  A  town  on  the  southern  shore  of  the  Gulf  of  Finland,  and  the  scene 
of  a  great  battle  in  1700,  when  the  Russians  were  completely  routed  by 
the  Swedes  under  Charles  XII. 


Afanassievitch  ;  but  the  airiness  and  elegance  of  the  young 
fop  did  not  find  favour  in  the  eyes  of  the  proud  noble,  who 
wittily  nicknamed  him  the  French  monkey- 
It  was  a  holiday.  Gavril  Afanassievitch  expected  some 
relatives  and  friends.  In  the  ancient  hall  a  long  table  was 
laid.  The  guests  arrived  with  their  wives  and  daughters,  who 
had  at  last  been  set  free  from  domestic  imprisonment  by  the 
decree  of  the  Emperor  and  by  his  own  example.^  Natalia 
Gavrilovna  carried  round  to  each  guest  a  silver  tray  laden 
with  golden  cups,  and  each  man,  as  he  drained  his,  re- 
gretted that  the  kiss,  which  it  was  customary  to  receive 
on  such  occasions  in  the  olden  times,  had  gone  out  of 

They  sat  down  to  table.  In  the  first  place,  next  to  the 
host,  sat  his  father-in-law,  Prince  Boris  Alexeievitch  Likoff, 
a  boyar  ^  of  seventy  years  of  age ;  the  other  guests  ranged 
themselves  according  to  the  antiquity  of  their  family,  thus 
recalling  the  happy  times  when  respect  for  age  was  observed. 
The  men  sat  on  one  side,  the  women  on  the  other.  At  the 
end  of  the  table,  the  housekeeper  in  her  old-fashioned 
costume — a  little  woman  of  thirty,  affected  and  wrinkled — 
and  the  captive  dancing-master,  in  his  faded  blue  uniform, 
occupied  their  accustomed  places.  The  table,  which  was 
covered  with  a  large  number  of  dishes,  was  surrounded  by 
an  anxious  crowd  of  domestics,  among  whom  was  dis- 
tinguishable the  house-steward,  with  his  severe  look,  big 
paunch  and  lofty  immobility.  The  first  few  minutes  of 
dinner  were  devoted  entirely  to  the  productions  of  our  old 
cookery;  the  noise  of  plates  and  the  rattling  of  spoons 
alone  interrupted  the  general  silence.     At  last  the  host, 

^  Previous  to  the  reign  of  Peter  the  Great,  the  Russian  women  lived 
in  almost  Oriental  seclusion,  and  it  was  for  the  purpose  of  abolishing 
this  custom  that  Peter  established  his  famous  "assemblies." 

*  A  noble  of  the  second  degree. 


seeing  that  the  time  had  arrived  for  amusing  the  guests  with 
agreeable  conversation,  turned  round  and  asked : 

"  But  where  is  Ekemovna  ?     Summon  her  hither." 

Several  servants  were  about  to  rush  off  in  different  direc- 
tions, but  at  that  moment  an  old  woman,  painted  white  and 
red,  decorated  with  flowers  and  tinsel,  in  a  silk  gown  with 
a  low  neck,  entered,  singing  and  dancing.  Her  appearance 
produced  general  satisfaction. 

"Good-day,  Ekemovna,"  said  Prince  Likoff:  "how  do 
you  do?" 

"  Quite  well  and  happy,  gossip  :  still  singing  and  dancing 
and  looking  out  for  sweethearts." 

*'  Where  have  you  been,  fool  ?  "  asked  the  host. 

"Decorating  myself,  gossip,  for  the  dear  guests,  for  this 
holy  day,  by  order  of  the  Czar,  by  command  of  my  master, 
to  be  a  laughing-stock  for  everybody  after  the  German 

At  these  words  there  arose  a  loud  burst  of  laughter,  and 
the  fool  took  her  place  behind  the  host's  chair. 

"  A  fool  talks  nonsense,  but  sometimes  speaks  the  truth," 
said  Tatiana  Afanassievna,  the  eldest  sister  of  the  host,  and 
for  whom  he  entertained  great  respect.  "  As  a  matter  of 
fact,  the  present  fashion  must  seem  ridiculous  in  the  eyes  of 
everybody.  But  since  you,  gentlemen,  have  shaved  off  your 
beards  ^  and  put  on  short  caftans^  it  is,  of  course,  useless  to 
talk  about  women's  rags,  although  it  is  really  a  pity  about 
the  sarafan^  the  maiden's  ribbons,  and  t\iQ povoinik/^  It  is 
pitiable  and  at  the  same  time  laughable,  to  see  the  beauties 
of  to-day :  their  hair  frizzed  like  tow,  greased  and  covered 
with  French  powder ;  the  waist  drawn  in  to  such  a  degree, 

^  In  his  zeal  to  introduce  into  his  empire  the  customs  of  Western 
Europe,  Peter  the  Great  issued  an  order  that  all  Russians  were  to  shave 
off  their  beards. 

^  The  national  head-dress  of  the  Russian  women. 


that  it  is  almost  on  the  point  of  breaking  in  two;  theii 
petticoats  are  distended  with  hoops,  so  that  they  have  to 
enter  a  carriage  sideways ;  to  go  through  a  door  they  are 
obhged  to  stoop  down ;  they  can  neither  stand,  nor  sit,  nor 
breathe — real  martyrs,  the  poor  doves  ! " 

**  Oh,  little  mother  Tatiana  Afanassievna ! "  said  Kirila 

Petrovitch  T ,  a  former  governor  of  Riazan,  where  he 

acquired  three  thousand  serfs  and  a  young  wife,  both  by 
somewhat  dishonourable  means,  "  as  far  as  I  am  concerned, 
my  wife  may  diess  as  she  pleases,  and  wear  what  she  likes, 
provided  that  she  does  not  order  new  dresses  every  month 
and  throw  away  the  former  ones  that  are  nearly  new.  In 
former  times  the  grandmother's  sarafan  formed  part  of  the 
granddaughter's  dowry,  but  nowadays  all  that  is  changed : 
the  dress,  that  the  mistress  wears  to-day,  you  will  see  the 
servant  wearing  to-morrow.  What  is  to  be  done  ?  It  is  the 
ruin  of  the  Russian  nobility,  alas  ! " 

At  these  words  he  sighed  and  looked  at  his  Maria 
Ilienishna,  who  did  not  seem  at  all  to  like  either  his 
praises  of  the  past  or  his  disparagement  of  the  latest  cus- 
toms. The  other  young  ladies  shared  her  displeasure,  but 
they  remained  silent,  for  modesty  was  then  considered  an 
indispensable  attribute  in  young  women. 

"And  who  is  to  blame?"  said  Gavril  Afanassievitch, 
filling  a  tankard  with  an  effervescing  beverage.  "Isn't  it 
our  own  fault?  The  young  women  play  the  fool,  and  we 
encourage  them." 

"But  what  can  we  do,  when  our  wishes  are  not  con- 
sulted ?  "  replied  Kirila  Petrovitch.  "  One  would  be  glad 
to  shut  his  wife  up  in  an  attic,  but  with  beating  of  drums 
she  is  summoned  to  appear  at  the  assemblies.  The  husband 
goes  after  the  whip,  but  the  wife  after  dress.  Oh,  those 
assemblies  !  The  Lord  has  sent  them  upon  us  as^a  punish- 
ment for  our  sins." 


Maria  Ilienishna  sat  as  if  upon  needles;  her  tongue 
itched  to  speak.  At  last  she  could  restrain  herself  no 
longer,  and  turning  to  her  husband,  she  asked  him  with  an 
acid  smile,  what  he  found  wrong  in  the  assemblies. 

"This  is  what  I  find  wrong  in  them,"  replied  the  pro- 
voked husband :  "  since  the  time  when  they  commenced, 
husbands  have  been  unable  to  manage  their  wives;  wives 
have  forgotten  the  words  of  the  Apostle :  '  Let  the  wife 
reverence  her  husband*;  they  no  longer  busy  themselves 
about  domestic  affairs,  but  about  new  dresses ;  they  do  not 
think  of  how  to  please  their  husbands,  but  how  to  attract 
the  attention  of  frivolous  officers.  And  is  it  becoming, 
Madame,  for  a  Russian  lady  to  associate  with  German 
smokers  and  their  work-women?  And  was  ever  such  a 
thing  heard  of,  as  dancing  and  talking  with  young  men  till"- 
far  into  the  night  ?  It  would  be  all  very  well  if  it  were  with 
relatives,  but  with  strangers,  with  people  that  they  are 
totally  unacquainted  with  ! " 

"  I  would  say  just  a  word,  but  there  is  a  wolf  not  far  off," 
said  Gavril  Afanassievitch,  frowning.  **  I  confess  that  these 
assemblies  are  not  to  my  liking :  before  you  know  where 
you  are,  you  knock  against  some  drunkard,  or  are  made 
drunk  yourself  to  become  the  laughing-stock  of  others. 
Then  you  must  keep  your  eyes  open  lest  some  good-for- 
nothing  fellow  should  act  the  fool  with  your  daughter ;  the 
young  men  nowadays  are  so  spoilt,  that  they  cannot  be 
worse.  Look,  for  example,  at  the  son  of  the  late  Evgraf 
Sergeievitch  Korsakoff,  who  at  the  last  assembly  made  so 
much  noise  about  Natasha,^  that  it  brought  the  blood  to 
my  cheeks.  The  next  day  I  see  somebody  driving  straight 
into  my  courtyard ;  I  thought  to  myself,  who  in  the  name 
of  Heaven  is  it,  can  it  be  Prince  Alexander  Danilovitch  P^ 

'  Diminutive  of  Natalia. 


But  no :  it  was  Ivan  Evgrafovitch  !  He  could  not  stop  at 
the  gate  and  make  his  way  on  foot  to  the  steps,  not  he ! 
He  flew  in,  bowing  and  chattering,  the  Lord  preserve  us ! 
The  fool  Ekemovna  mimics  him  very  amusingly :  by  the 
way,  fool,  give  us  an  imitation  of  the  foreign  monkey." 

The  fool  Ekemovna  seized  hold  of  a  dish-cover,  placed 
it  under  her  arm  like  a  hat,  and  began  twisting,  scraping, 
and  bowing  in  every  direction,  repeating:  "monsieur 
.  .  .  mamselle  .  .  .  assembl^e  .  .  .  pardon."  General 
and  prolonged  laughter  again  testified  to  the  delight  of  the 

"Just  like  Korsakoff,"  said  old  Prince  Likoff,  wiping 
away  the  tears  of  laughter,  when  calmness  was  again  re- 
stored. "  But  why  conceal  the  fact  ?  He  is  not  the  first, 
nor  will  he  be  the  last,  who  has  returned  from  abroad  to 
holy  Russia  a  buffoon.  What  do  our  children  learn  there  ? 
To  scrape  with  their  feet,  to  chatter  God  knows  in  what 
gibberish,  to  treat  their  elders  with  disrespect,  and  to 
dangle  after  other  men's  wives.  Of  all  the  young  people 
who  have  been  educated  abroad  (the  Lord  forgive  me !) 
the  Czar's  negro  most  resembles  a  man." 

"  Oh,  Prince,"  said  Tatiana  Afanassievna  :  "  I  have  seen 
him,  I  have  seen  him  quite  close :  what  a  frightful  muzzle 
he  has  !     He  quite  terrified  me  ! " 

"  Of  course,"  observed  Gavril  Afanassievitch :  "  he  is  a 
sober,  decent  man,  and  not  a  mere  weathercock.  .  .  .  But 
who  is  it  that  has  just  driven  through  the  gate  into  the 
courtyard  ?  Surely  it  cannot  be  that  foreign  monkey  again  ? 
Why  do  you  stand  gaping  there,  beasts?"  he  continued, 
turning  to  the  servants  :  "  run  and  stop  him  from  coming  in, 
and  for  the  future  .  .  ." 

"Old  beard,  are  you  dreaming?"  interrupted  Ekemovna 
the  fool,  "  or  are  you  blind  ?  It  is  the  imperial  sledge — the 
Czar  has  come." 


Gavril  Afanassievitch  rose  hastily  from  the  table ;  every- 
body  rushed  to  the  window,  and  sure  enough  they  saw  the 
Emperor  ascending  the  steps,  leaning  on  the  shoulder  of  his 
servant.  A  great  confusion  arose.  The  host  rushed  tc 
meet  Peter ;  the  servants  ran  hither  and  thither  as  if  the) 
had  gone  crazy;  the  guests  became  alarmed;  some  evei 
thought  how  they  might  hasten  home  as  quickly  as  possible. 
Suddenly  the  thundering  voice  of  Peter  resounded  in  the 
ante-room  ;  all  became  silent,  and  the  Czar  entered,  accom- 
panied by  his  host,  who  was  beside  himself  with  joy. 

"  Good   day,  gentlemen ! "   said   Peter,  with  a  cheerfi 

All  made  a  profound  bow.  The  sharp  eyes  of  the  Czai 
sought  out  in  the  crowd  the  young  daughter  of  the  host ;  he 
called  her  to  him.  Natalia  Gavrilovna  advanced  boldly 
enough,  but  she  blushed  not  only  to  the  ears  but  even  to  the 

**  You  grow  more  beautiful  every  day,*'  said  the  Emperoi 
to  her,  and  according  to  his  usual  custom  he  kissed  hei 
upon  the  head ;  then  turning  to  the  guests,  he  added :  "  ] 
have  disturbed  you?  You  were  dining?  Pray  sit  down 
again,  and  give  me  some  aniseed  brandy,  Gavril  Afanassie- 

The  host  rushed  to  the  stately  house-steward,  snatched 
from  his  hand  a  tray,  filled  a  golden  goblet  himself,  anc 
gave  it  with  a  bow  to  the  Emperor.  Peter  drank  the  brandy, 
ate  a  biscuit,  and  for  the  second  time  requested  the  guests 
to  continue  their  dinner.  All  resumed  their  former  places, 
except  the  dwarf  and  the  housekeeper,  who  did  not  dare  to 
remain  at  a  table  honoured  by  the  presence  of  the  Czar. 
Peter  sat  down  by  the  side  of  the  host  and  asked  for  some 
soup.  The  Emperor's  servant  gave  him  a  wooden  spoon 
mounted  with  ivory,  and  a  knife  and  fork  with  green  bone 
handles,  for  Peter  never  used  any  other  knives,  forks  and 

PETER  THE  GREATS  NEGRO.        45 1 

spoons  but  his  own.  The  dinner,  which  a  moment  before 
had  been  so  noisy  and  merry,  was  now  continued  in  silence 
and  constraint.  The  host,  through  respect  and  delight,  ate 
nothing ;  the  guests  also  stood  upon  ceremony  and  listened 
with  respectful  attention,  as  the  Emperor  discoursed  in 
German  with  the  captive  Swede  about  the  campaign  of 
1 701.  The  fool  Ekemovna,  several  times  questioned  by 
the  Emperor,  replied  with  a  sort  of  timid  coldness,  which, 
be  it  remarked,  did  not  at  all  prove  her  natural  stupidity.  At 
last  the  dinne:r  came  to  an  end.  The  Emperor  rose,  and 
after  him  all  the  guests. 

"  Gavril  Afanassievitch  !  "  he  said  to  the  host :  "  I  want 
to  say  a  word  with  you  alone  ; "  and,  taking  him  by  the  arm, 
he  led  him  into  the  parlour  and  locked  the  door.  The 
guests  remained  in  the  dining-room,  talking  in  whispers 
about  the  unexpected  visit,  and,  afraid  of  being  indiscreet, 
they  soon  dispersed  one  after  another,  without  thanking  the 
host  for  his  hospitaHty.  His  father-in-law,  daughter,  and 
sister  conducted  them  very  quietly  to  the  door,  and  remained 
alone  in  the  dining-room,  awaiting  the  issue  of  the  Emperor, 




ABOUT  half  an  hour  afterwards  the  door  opened  and 
Peter  issued  forth.  With  a  dignified  inclination  of 
the  head  he  replied  to  the  threefold  bow  of  Prince  Likoff, 
Tatiana  Afanassievna  and  Natasha,  and  walked  straight  out 
into  the  ante-room.  The  host  handed  him  his  red  cloak, 
conducted  him  to  the  sledge,  and  on  the  steps  thanked  him 
once  more  for  the  honour  he  had  shown  him. 

Peter  drove  off. 

Returning  to  the  dining-room,  Gavril  Afanassievitch 
seemed  very  much  troubled;  he  angrily  ordered  the  ser- 
vants to  clear  the  table  as  quickly  as  possible,  sent  Natasha 
to  her  own  room,  and,  informing  his  sister  and  father-in-law 
that  he  must  talk  with  them,  he  led  them  into  the  bedroom, 
where  he  usually  rested  after  dinner.  The  old  Prince  lay 
down  upon  the  oak  bed ;  Tatiana  Afanassievna  sat  down  in 
the  old  silk-lined  armchair,  and  placed  her  feet  upon  the 
footstool ;  Gavril  Afanassievitch  locked  the  doors,  sat  down 
upon  the  bed  at  the  feet  of  Prince  Likoff,  and  in  a  low  voice 
began : 

"  It  was  not  for  nothing  that  the  Emperor  paid  me  a  visit 
to-day  :  guess  what  he  wanted  to  talk  to  me  about." 

"How  can  we  know,  brother?"  said  Tatiana  Afanassievna, 

"  Has  the  Czar  appointed  you  to  some  government  ?  "  said 
his  father-in-law  : — *'  it  is  quite  time  enough  that  he  did  so. 
Or  has  he  offered  an  embassy  to  you?  Why  not?  That 
need  not  mean  being  a  mere  secretary — distinguished  people 
are  sent  to  foreign  monarchs." 


"No,"  replied  his  son-in-law,  frowning.  "I  am  a  man  of 
the  old  school,  and  our  services  nowadays  are  of  no  use, 
although,  perhaps,  an  orthodox  Russian  nobleman  is  worth 
more  than  these  modern  upstarts,  bakers  and  heathens.  But 
this  is  a  different  matter  altogether." 

"  Then  what  is  it,  brother  ?  "  said  Tatiana  Afanassievna. 
"Why  was  he  talking  with  you  for  such  a  long  time?  Can 
it  be  that  you  are  threatened  with  some  misfortune  ?  The 
Lord  save  and  defend  us  ! " 

"  No  misfortune,  certainly,  but  I  confess  that  it  is  a  matter 
for  reflection." 

"Then  what  is  it,  brother?    What  is  the  matter  about ?  " 

**  It  is  about  Natasha  :  the  Czar  came  to  ask  for  her  hand." 

"  God  be  thanked  ! "  said  Tatiana  Afanassievna,  crossing 
herself.  "  The  maiden  is  of  a  marriageable  age,  and  as  the 
matchmaker  is,  so  must  the  bridegroom  be.  God  give 
them  love  and  counsel,  the  honour  is  great.  For  whom 
does  the  Czar  ask  her  hand  ?  " 

"H'm!"  exclaimed  Gavril  Afanassievitch ;  "for  whom? 
That's  just  it — for  whom  !  " 

"  Who  is  it,  then  ?  "  repeated  Prince  Likoff,  already  be- 
ginning to  doze  off  to  sleep. 

"  Guess,"  said  Gavril  Afanassievitch. 

"  My  dear  brother,"  repUed  the  old  lady :  "  how  can  we 
guess  ?  There  are  a  great  number  of  marriageable  men  at 
Court,  each  of  whom  would  be  glad  to  take  your  Natasha  for 
his  wife.     Is  it  Dolgorouky  ?  " 

"No,  it  is  not  Dolgorouky." 

"God  be  with  him:  he  is  too  overbearing.  Schein? 
Troekouroff  ?  " 

"  No,  neither  the  one  nor  the  other." 

"  I  do  not  care  for  them  either ;  they  are  flighty,  and  too 
much  imbued  with  the  German  spirit.  Well,  is  it  Milo- 
slavsky  ?  " 


poushkin's  prose  tales. 

"No,  not  he." 

"  God  be  with  him,  he  is  rich  and  stupid.  Who  then  ? 
Eletsky?  Lvoff?  It  cannot  be  Ragouzinsky?  I  cannot 
think  of  anybody  else.  For  whom,  then,  does  the  Czar  want 
Natasha  ?  " 

"  For  the  negro  Ibrahim." 

The  old  lady  uttered  a  cry  and  clasped  her  hands.     Prince 
Likoff  raised  his  head  from  the  pillow,  and  with  astonishmei 
repeated : 

"  For  the  negro  Ibrahim  ?  " 

"  My  dear  brother  ! "  said  the  old  lady  in  a  tearful  voice| 
"  do  not  destroy  your  dear  child,  do  not  deliver  poor  littU 
Natasha  into  the  clutches  of  that  black  devil." 

"How?"  replied  Gavril  Afanassievitch :  "refuse  the 
Emperor,  who  promises  in  return  to  bestow  his  favour  upor 
us  and  all  our  house." 

"  What ! "  exclaimed  the  old  Prince,  who  was  now  wi( 
awake :  "  Natasha,  my  granddaughter,  to  be  married  to 
bought  negro."  ,, 

"  He  is  not  of  common  birth,"  said  Gavril  Afanassievitch] 
"  he  is  the  son  of  a  negro  Sultan.  The  Mussulmen  toe 
him  prisoner  and  sold  him  in  Constantinople,  and  oui 
ambassador  bought  him  and  presented  him  to  the  CzarJ 
The  negro's  eldest  brother  came  to  Russia  with  a  con« 
siderable  ransom  and " 

"  We  have  heard  the  story  of  Bova  Korolevitch  ^  an( 
Erouslana  Lazarevitch."  ^ 

"  My  dear  Gavril  Afanassievitch  ! "  interrupted  the  oh 
lady,  "tell  us  rather  how  you  replied  to  the  Emperor's 

"  I  said  that  we  were  under  his  authority,  and  that  it  was 
our  duty  to  obey  him  in  all  things." 

^  The  two  principal  characters  in  one  of  the  legendary  stories  ofj 


At  that  moment  a  noise  was  heard  behind  the  door. 
Gavril  Afanassievitch  went  to  open  it,  but  felt  some  obstruc- 
tion. He  pushed  against  it  with  increased  force,  the  door 
opened,  and  they  saw  Natasha  lying  in  a  swoon  upon  the 
blood-stained  floor. 

Her  heart  sank  within  her,  when  the  Emperor  shut  him- 
self up  with  her  father;  some  presentiment  whispered  to 
her  that  the  matter  concerned  her,  and  when  Gavril 
Afanassievitch  ordered  her  to  withdraw,  saying  that  he 
wished  to  speak  to  her  aunt  and  grandfather,  she  could  not 
resist  the  instinct  of  feminine  curiosity,  stole  quietly  along 
through  the  inner  rooms  to  the  bedroom  door,  and  did  not 
miss  a  single  word  of  the  whole  terrible  conversation ;  when 
she  heard  her  father's  last  words,  the  poor  girl  lost  con- 
sciousness, and  falling,  struck  her  head  against  an  iron- 
bound  chest,  in  which  was  kept  her  dowry. 

The  servants  hastened  to  the  spot ;  Natasha  was  lifted 
up,  carried  to  her  own  room,  and  placed  in  bed.  After  a 
little  time  she  regained  consciousness,  opened  her  eyes,  but 
recognized  neither  father  nor  aunt.  A  violent  fever  set  in ; 
she  spoke  in  her  delirium  about  the  Czar's  negro,  about 
marriage,  and  suddenly  cried  in  a  plaintive  and  piercing  voice : 

"  Valerian,  dear  Valerian,  my  life,  save  me  !  there  they 
are,  there  they  are.  .  .  ." 

Tatiana  Afanassievna  glanced  uneasily  at  her  brother, 
who  turned  pale,  bit  his  lips,  and  silently  left  the  room.  He 
returned  to  the  old  Prince,  who,  unable  to  mount  the 
stairs,  had  remained  below. 

"  How  is  Natasha?"  asked  he. 

"  Very  bad,"  replied  the  grieved  father  :  "  worse  than  I 
thought ;  she  is  delirious,  and  raves  about  Valerian." 

"  Who  is  this  Valerian  ? "  asked  the  anxious  old  man. 
*'  Can  it  be  that  orphan,  the  archer's  son,  whom  you 
brought  up  in  your  house  ?  " 


**  The  same,   to  my  misfortune ! "  replied  Gavril  Afan. 
assievitch.      "His   father,    at   the   time   of  the  rebellion, 
saved   my  life,   and   the   devil   induced   me   to  take  thi 
accursed  young  wolf  into  my  house.     When,  two  years  ag< 
he   was   enrolled    in    the    regiment   at   his   own   requesi 
Natasha,  on  taking  leave  of  him,  shed  bitter  tears,  and  h( 
stood  as  if  petrified.     This  seemed  suspicious  to  me,  and 
spoke  about  it  to  my  sister.     But  since  that  time  Natashi 
has  never  mentioned  his  name,  and  nothing  whatever  h; 
been  heard  of  him.     I  thought  that  she  had  forgotten  hii 
but   it  is  evident  that  such   is   not   the   case.     But  it  is 
decided  :  she  shall  marry  the  negro." 

Prince   Likoff  did  not  contradict  him :   it  would  havi 
been  useless.     He  returned  home;  Tatiana  Afanassievn; 
remained  by  the  side  of  Natasha's  bed ;  Gavril  Afanassie- 
vitch,  having   sent  for  the  doctor,  locked  himself  in  hi 
room,  and  in  his  house  all  was  still  and  sad. 

The  unexpected  proposal  astonished  Ibrahim  quite  ai 
much  as  Gavril  Afanassievitch.  This  is  how  it  happened. 
Peter,  being  engaged  in  business  with  Ibrahim,  said  to 
him  : 

"  I  perceive,  my  friend,  that  you  are  downhearted ; 
speak  frankly,  what  is  it  you  want  ?  " 

Ibrahim  assured  the  Emperor  that  he  was  very  well 
satisfied  with  his  lot,  and  wished  for  nothing  better. 

"  Good,"  said  the  Emperor :  "  if  you  are  dull  without 
any  cause,  I  know  how  to  cheer  you  up." 

At  the  conclusion  of  the  work,  Peter  asked  Ibrahim  : 

*'  Do  you  like  the  young  lady  with  whom  you  danced  the 
minuet  at  the  last  assembly  ?  " 

"  She  is  very  charming,  Your  Majesty,  and  seems  to  be  a 
good  and  modest  girl." 

"  Then  I  shall  take  it  upon  myself  to  make  you  better 
acquainted  with  her.     Would  you  like  to  marry  her  ?  " 



'*  I,  Your  Majesty  ?  " 

"Listen,  Ibrahim:  you  are  a  man  alone  in  the  world, 
without  birth  and  kindred,  a  stranger  to  everybody,  except 
myself.  Were  I  to  die  to-day,  what  would  become  of  you 
to-morrow,  my  poor  negro?  You  must  get  settled  while 
there  is  yet  time,  find  support  in  new  ties,  become  con- 
nected by  marriage  with  the  Russian  nobility." 

"  Your  Majesty,  I  am  happy  under  your  protection,  and 
in  the  possession  of  your  favour.  God  grant  that  I  may 
not  survive  my  Czar  and  benefactor — I  wish  for  nothing 
more;  but  even  if  I  had  any  idea  of  getting  married, 
would  the  young  lady  and  her  relations  consent  ?  My 
appearance " 

^'  Your  appearance  ?  What  nonsense  !  A  clever  fellow 
like  you,  too !  A  young  girl  must  obey  the  will  of  her 
parents,  and  we  will  see  what  old  Gavril  Rjevsky  will  say, 
when  I  myself  will  be  your  matchmaker." 

With  these  words  the  Emperor  ordered  his  sledge,  and 
left  Ibrahim  sunk  in  deep  reflection. 

"  Get  married  ?  "  thought  the  African  :  "  why  not  ?  Am 
I  to  be  condemned  to  pass  my  life  in  solitude,  and  not 
know  the  greatest  pleasure  and  the  most  sacred  duties  of 
man,  just  because  I  was  born  beneath  the  torrid  zone  ?  I 
cannot  hope  to  be  loved :  a  childish  objection !  Is  it 
possible  to  believe  in  love?  Does  it  then  exist  in  the 
frivolous  heart  of  woman  ?  As  I  have  renounced  for  ever 
such  alluring  errors,  I  must  devote  my  attention  to  ideas  oi 
a  more  practical  nature.  The  Emperor  is  right :  I  must 
think  of  my  future.  Marriage  with  the  young  Rjevsky  will 
connect  me  with  the  proud  Russian  nobility,  and  I  shall 
cease  to  be  a  sojourner  in  my  new  fatherland.  From  my 
wife  I  shall  not  require  love :  I  shall  be  satisfied  with  her 
fidelity ;  and  her  friendship  I  will  acquire  by  constant 
tenderness,  confidence  and  devotion." 

458         POUSHKIN'S  PROSE  TALES. 

Ibrahim,  according  to  his  usual  custom,  wished  to  occupy 
himself  with  work,  but  his  imagination  was  too  excited.  He 
left  the  papers  and  went  for  a  stroll  along  the  banks  of  the 
Neva.  Suddenly  he  heard  the  voice  of  Peter ;  he  looked 
round  and  saw  the  Emperor,  who,  dismissing  his  sledge, 
advanced  towards  him  with  a  beaming  countenance. 

"  It  is  all  settled,  my  friend  ! "  said  Peter,  taking  him  by 
the  arm  :  "  I  have  affianced  you.  To-morrow,  go  and  visit 
your  father-in-law,  but  see  that  you  humour  his  boyar 
pride  :  leave  the  sledge  at  the  gate,  go  through  the  court- 
yard on  foot,  talk  to  him  about  his  services  and  distinctions, 
and  he  will  be  perfectly  charmed  with  you.  .  .  .  And 
now,"  continued  he,  shaking  his  cudgel,  "  lead  me  to  that 
rogue  Danilitch,  with  whom  I  must  confer  about  his  recent 

Ibrahim  thanked  Peter  heartily  for  his  fatherly  solicitude 
on  his  account,  accompanied  him  as  far  as  the  magnificent 
palace  of  Prince  Menshikoff,  and  then  returned  home. 



DIMLY  burnt  the  lamp  before  the  glass  case  in  which 
glittered  the  gold  and  silver  frames  of  the  sacred 
images.  The  flickering  light  faintly  illuminated  the 
curtained  bed  and  the  little  table  set  out  with  labelled 
medicine-bottles.  Near  the  stove  sat  a  servant-maid  at  her 
spinning-wheel,  and  the  subdued  noise  of  the  spindle  was 
the  only  sound  that  broke  the  silence  of  the  room. 

*'  Who  is  there?"  asked  a  feeble  voice. 

The  servant-maid  rose  immediately,  approached  the  bed, 
and  gently  raised  the  curtain. 

"  Will  it  soon  be  daylight?"  asked  Natalia. 

"  It  is  alreaj^y  midday,"  replied  the  maid. 

I"  Oh,  Lord  of  Heaven  !  and  why  is  it  so  dark?" 
"  The  shutters  are  closed,  miss." 
'•  Help  me  to  dress  quickly." 
'  *'  You  must  not  do  so,  miss ;  the  doctor  has  forbidden  it." 
'  *'  Am  I  ill  then  ?     How  long  have  I  been  so  ?  " 
'*  About  a  fortnight." 

"Is  it  possible?  And  it  seems  to  me  as  if  it  were  only 
yesterday  that  I  went  to  bed.  .  .  ." 

Natasha  became  silent;  she  tried  to  collect  her  scattered 
thoughts.  Something  had  happened  to  her,  but  what  it 
was  she  could  not  exactly  remember.  The  maid  stood 
before  her,  awaiting  her  orders.  At  that  moment  a  dull 
noise  was  heard  below. 

"  What  is  that  ?  "  asked  the  invalid. 

"The   gentlemen   have   finished    dinner,"    replied    the 

46o      poushkin's  prose  tales. 

maid:  *' they  are  rising  from  the  table.  Tatiana  Afan- 
assievna  will  be  here  presently." 

Natasha  seemed  pleased  at  this;  she  waved  her  feeble 
hand.  The  maid  dropped  the  curtain  and  seated  herself 
again  at  the  spinning-wheel. 

A  few  minutes  afterwards,  a  head  in  a  broad  white  cap 
with  dark  ribbons  appeared  in  the  doorway  and  asked  in 
a  low  voice : 

*'Howis  Natasha?" 

"  How  do  you  do,  auntie  ? "  said  the  invalid  in  a  faint 
voice,  and  Tatiana  Afanassievna  hastened  towards  her. 

"The  young  lady  has  regained  consciousness,"  said  the 
maid,  carefully  drawing  a  chair  to  the  side  of  the  bed. 
The  old  lady,  with  tears  in  her  eyes,  kissed  the  pale, 
languid  face  of  her  niece,  and  sat  down  beside  her.  Just 
behind  her  came  a  German  doctor  in  a  black  caftan  and 
learned  wig.  He  felt  Natalia's  pulse,  and  announced  in 
Latin,  and  then  in  Russian,  that  the  danger  was  over.  He 
asked  for  paper  and  ink,  wrote  out  a  new  prescription,  and 
departed.  The  old  lady  rose,  kissed  Natalia  once  more, 
and  immediately  hurried  down  with  the  good  news  to 
Gavril  Afanassievitch. 

In  the  parlour,  in  uniform,  with  sword  by  his  side  and 
hat  in  his  hand,  sat  the  Czar's  negro,  respectfully  talking 
with  Gavril  Afanassievitch.  Korsakoff,  stretched  out  upon 
a  soft  couch,  was  listening  to  their  conversation,  and 
teasing  a  venerable  greyhound.  Becoming  tired  of  this 
occupation,  he  approached  the  mirror,  the  usual  refuge  of 
the  idle,  and  in  it  he  saw  Tatiana  Afanassievna,  who 
through  the  doorway  w^'s  making  unnoticed  signs  to  her 

"  Someone  is  calling  you,  Gavril  Afanassievitch,"  said 
Korsakoff,  turning  round  to  him  and  interrupting  Ibrahim's 


Gavril  Afanassievitch  immediately  went  to  his  sister  and 
closed  the  door  behind  him. 

"I  am  astonished  at  your  patience,"  said  Korsakoff  to 
Ibrahim.  "  For  a  full  hour  you  have  been  listening  to  a  lot 
of  nonsense  about  the  antiquity  of  the  Likoff  and  Rjevsky 
families,  and  have  even  added  your  own  moral  observa- 
tions !  In  your  place  faurais  plante  Id  the  old  babbler 
and  all  his  race,  including  Natalia  Gavrilovna,  who  is  an 
affected  girl,  and  is  only  pretending  to  be  ill — une  petite 
sante.  Tell  me  candidly:  do  you  really  love  this  little 
mijauree  ?  " 

*'No,"  replied  Ibrahim:  "I  am  certainly  not  going  to 
marry,  out  of  love,  but  out  of  prudence,  and  then  only  if 
she  has  no  decided  aversion  to  me." 

*' Listen,  Ibrahim,"  said  Korsakoff,  "follow  my  advice 
this  time ;  in  truth,  I  am  more  discreet  than  I  seem.  Get 
this  fooHsh  idea  out  of  your  head — don't  marry.  It  seems 
to  me  that  your  bride  has  no  particular  liking  for  you.  Do 
not  a  few  things  happen  in  this  world  ?  For  instance :  I  am 
certainly  not  a  very  bad  sort  of  fellow  myself,  but  yet  it 
has  happened  to  me  to  deceive  husbands,  who,  by  the 
Lord,  were  in  no  way  worse  than  me.     And  you  yourself 

...  do  you  remember  our  Parisian  friend.  Count  L ? 

There  is  no  dependence  to  be  placed  upon  a  woman's 
fidelity;  happy  is  he  who  can  regard  it  with  indifference. 
But  you !  .  .  .  With  your  passionate,  pensive  and  sus- 
picious nature,  with  your  fiat  nose,  thick  lips,  and  shaggy 
head,  to  rush  into  all  the  dangers  of  matrimony  !...." 

"  I  thank  you  for  your  friendly  advice,"  interrupted 
Ibrahim  coldly;  "but  you  know  the  proverb:  'It  is  not 
your  duty  to  rock  other  people's  children.' " 

"  Take  care,  Ibrahim,"  replied  Korsakoff,  laughing,  "  that 
you  are  not  called  upon  some  day  to  prove  the  truth  of  that 
proverb  in  the  literal  sense  of  the  word," 

462         POUSHKIN'S  PROSE  TALES. 

Meanwhile  the  conversation  in  the  next  room  became 
very  heated. 

"You  will  kill  her,"  the  old  lady  was  saying:  "she; 
cannot  bear  the  sight  of  him." 

"  But  judge  for  yourself,"  replied  her  obstinate  brother. 
"  For  a  fortnight  he  has  been  coming  here  as  her  bride- 
groom, and  during  that  time  he  has  not  once  seen  his  bride. 
He  may  think  at  last  that  her  illness  is  a  mere  invention, 
and  that  we  are  only  seeking  to  gain  time  in  order  to  rid 
ourselves  of  him  in  some  way.  And  what  will  the  Czar 
say?  He  has  already  sent  three  times  to  ask  after  the 
health  of  Natalia.  Do  as  you  like,  but  I  have  no  intention 
of  quarrelling  with  him." 

"My  Lord  God!"  said  Tatiana  Afanassievna ;  "what 
will  become  of  the  poor  child !  At  least  let  me  go  and 
prepare  her  for  such  a  visit." 

Gavril  Afanassievitch  consented,  and  then  returned,  to 
the  parlour. 

"  Thank  God ! "  said  he  to  Ibrahim  :  "  the  danger  is 
over.  Natalia  is  much  better.  Were  it  not  that  I  do  not 
like  to  leave  my  dear  guest  Ivan  Evgrafovitch  here  alone,  I 
would  take  you  upstairs  to  have  a  glimpse  of  your  bride." 

Korsakoff  congratulated  Gavril  Afanassievitch,  asked 
him  not  to  be  uneasy  on  his  account,  assured  him  that  he 
was  compelled  to  go  at  once,  and  rushed  out  into  the  hall, 
without  allowing  his  host  to  accompany  him. 

Meanwhile  Tatiana  Afanassievna  hastened  to  prepare  the 
invalid  for  the  appearance  of  the  terrible  guest.  Entering 
the  room,  she  sat  down  breathless  by  the  side  of  the  bed, 
and  took  Natasha  by  the  hand  ;  but  before  she  was  able  to 
utter  a  word,  the  door  opened. 

Natasha  asked  :  "  Who  has  come  in  ?  " 

The  old  lady  turned  faint.  Gavril  Afanassievitch  drew 
back  the  curtain,  looked  coldly  at  the  sick  girl,  and  asked 

'  ».  PETER  THE  great's   NEGRO.  463 

^^e  was.     The  invalid  wanted  to  smile  at  him,  but 

15  i^ot.  e  Her  father's  stern  look  struck  her,  and  un- 

in^s  took  possession  of  her.    At  that  moment  it  seemed 

leic^that  someone  was  standing  at  the  head  of  her  bed. 

'i  ff  ised  her  head  with  an  effort  and  suddenly  recognized 

C?  r's  negro.     Then  she  remembered  everything,  and 

he  aorror  of  the  future  presented  itself  before  her.    But 

lUsted  nature  received  no  perceptible  shock.     Natasha 

lier  head  dov  n  again  upon  the  pillow  and  closed  her 

^  .  .  .  her   hc;art  beat   painfully   within   her.     Tatiana 

aas55Mp3,  made  a  sign  to  her  brother  that  the  invalid 

t|^d^(P|Q  to  sleep,  and  all  quitted  the  room  very  quietly, 

jpt  tinfcnaid,  who  resumed  her  seat  at  the  spinning- 


unhappy  beauty  opened  her  eyes,  and  no  longer 
anyi)ody  by  her  bedside,  called  the  maid  and  sent 
for  the  nurse.  But  at  that  moment  a  round,  old 
^;  like  a  ball,  rolled  up  to  her  bed.  Lastotchka  (for  so 
jji^e  was  called)  with  all  the  speed  of  her  short  legs 
ffollowed  Gavril  Afanassievitch  and  Ibrahim  up  the 
},  and  concealed  herself  behind  the  door,  in  accordance 
V  the  promptings  of  that  curiosity  which  is  inborn  in  the 
sex.  Natasha,  seeing  her,  sent  the  maid  away,  and  the 
se^sat  down  upon  a  stool  by  the  bedside. 
Fever  had  so  small  a  body  contained  within  itself  so 
:h  energy  of  soul.  She  intermeddled  in  everything, 
w  everything,  and  busied  herself  about  everything.  By 
ning  and  insinuating  ways  she  had  succeeded  in  gaining 
love  of  her  masters,  and  the  hatred  of  all  the  household, 
eh  she  controlled  in  the  most  arbitrary  manner.  Gavril 
.nassievkch  listened  to  her  reports,  complaints,  and 
y  requi|its.  Tatiana  Afanassievna  constantly  asked  her 
lion,  a^  followed  her  advice,  and  Natasha  had  the 
ij,f>  t  unbSPided  affection  for  her,  and  confided  to  her  all 


the  thoughts,   all   the   emotions   of   her    sixteen-; 
heart.  • 

**Do  you  know,  Lastotchka,"  said  she,   "my 
going  to  marry  me  to  the  negro."  i 

The  nurse  sighed  deeply,  and  her  wrinkled  face! 
still  more  wrinkled.  ij* 

**  Is  there  no  hope  ?  "  contin!i|a Natasha  :  "  will  rr 
not  take  pity  upon  me  ?  "  ^ 

The  nurse  shook  her  cap.  \. 

"  Will  not  my  grandfather  or  my  a^n  - -';^j-  ^- — - 

"  No,  miss ;  during  your  illness  the 
bewitching  everybody.   The  master  is  out  ot 
him,    the    Prince    raves   about    him   alone,  ^v: 
Afanassievna  says  it  a  pity  that  he  is  a  negro,  a. 
bridegroom  we  could  not  wish  for." 

"  My  God,  my  God  ! "  moaned  poor  Natasha,  f 

"  Do  not  grieve,  my  pretty  one,"  said  the  nurse,  kissing',!!^ 
feeble  hand.  "  If  you  are  to  marry  the  negro,  you  will  4i  J^ 
your  own  way  in  everything.     Nowadays  it  is  not  as  ^' 

in  -the  olden  times :  husbands  no  longer  keep  tlieii 
under  lock  and  key  ;  they  say  the  negro  is  rich ;  your 
will  be  like  a  full  cup — you  will  lead  a  merry  life." 

"  Poor  Valerian ! "  said  Natasha,  but  so  softly 
the  nurse  could  only  guess  what  she  said,  as  si 
not  hear  the  words. 

"That  is  just  it,  miss,"  said  she,  mysteriously  lo 
her  voice;  "if  you  thought  less  of  the  archer's  o 
you  would  not  rave  about  him  in  your  illness,  anc 
father  would  not  be  angry." 

"  What !  "   said  the  alarmed  Natasha :    "  I  l^ave 
about  Valerian  ?     And  my  father  heard  it  ?     An 
is  angry  ?  " 

"  That  is  just  the  misfortune,"  replied  the  nu^e 
if  you  were  to  ask  him  not  to  marry  you  td^j^ 







'd  think  that  Valerian  was  the  cause.  There  is 
,0  be  done  ;  submit  to  the  will  of  your  parents,  for 

to  be,  will  be." 

<ha  did  not  reply.     The   thought  that  the  secret 

.^art  was  known  to  her  father,  produced  a  powerful 

on  her  imagination.     One  hope  alone  remained 

to  die  before  the  completion  of  the  odious  marriage. 

ought  consoled  her.     Weak  and  sad  at  heart  she 

:  herself  to  her  fate. 





N  the  house  of  Gavril  Afanassievitch,  to  the  right 
vestibule,  was  a  narrow  room  with  one  window, 
stood  a  simple  bed  covered  with  a  woollen  counter- 
front  of  the  bed  was  a  small  deal  table,  on  wj|ja  « 
candle  was  burning,  and  some  sheets  of  musg  l||f 
On  the  wall  hung  an  old  blue  uniform  anditsco^fe  " 
a  three-cornered  hat ;  above  it,  fastened  by  three  nai 
a  rude   picture  representing   Charles  XII.   on  ^ors 
The  notes  of  a  flute  resounded  through  this  hui^le  J 
tion.     The  captive  dancing-master,  its  lonely  occur" ^ 
night-cap  and  nankeen  dressing-gown,  was  relievinL 
ness  of  a  winter's  evening,  by  playing  some  old 
marches.     After  devoting  two  whole  hour^  to  this  K:^ 
the  Swede  took  his  flute  to  pieces,  placed  it  in 
and  began  to  undress.  .  .  ,  ,  . 


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14  DAY  USE 



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OCT  18  ISiTST 


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LO— '^  nr--T. 


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General  Library 

University  of  California